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Limbo
8th November 2008, 11:33 AM
I wonder if there are any psychologists who would care to read this and comment on it. Of course any comments from anyone are welcome as well. :)

SPR Study Day - The Psychology of the Sceptic (http://www.paranormalia.com/)

[This is the text of the talk I gave at the SPR's Study Day on sceptics last week. I'll post a link to the video recording when it gets published in due course, which will include Rupert Sheldrake's and Guy Lyon Playfair's].

When I first got interested in parapsychology I spent quite a lot of time reading debunking books by people like Martin Gardner and James Randi, and my delicate sensitivities were shocked - I wasn't used to scientific controversy, and I'd no idea that serious authors could the way they do about professional scientists and thinkers.

Most of us would probably agree that a lot of paranormal belief is silly and shallow. The gullibility displayed by participants in some of these TV programmes embarrasses us. But it seemed to me that parapsychologists were on the whole serious, conscientious and intelligent - often scientists or university academics. So it puzzled me to see them constantly excoriated as gullible idiots, or peddlers of woo-woo, the insult de jour on Randi's website, their abilities and motivations subjected to such ferocious and unreasonable criticisms.
At the more polite end of the spectrum we find James Alcock, professor of psychology at York University, Toronto, calling them 'mystagogues in search of a soul'. British psychologist David Marks thinks they are 'shamans' or 'medicine men'. In his bluff, straightforward way, James Randi calls them psi-nuts, wide eyed nincompoops who are not rowing with both oars in the water. Not one to hog all the credit, he also remarks: 'Perhaps Dr Börje Löfgren, writing in the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, had it right when he described Eisenbud and other parapsychology enthusiasts as 'decaying minds' with 'thinking defects and disturbed relations to reality'. (Flim-Flam! 227)

Then there's the sort of playground taunting of specific individuals. On his website, Randi tackles Professor Gary Schwartz, known for his research on mediums. Schwartz's experiments have been justly criticised, and more effectively by Ray Hyman and Richard Wiseman. But he's a respected professor and a serious investigator, who carried out experiments in a methodical way. Yet to Randi he's a 'typical ivory tower resident', and his experiments as footling as exploring the reality of Santa Claus. If Schwartz is so sure of his experimental results, Randi says, why doesn't he go in for the million-dollar challenge? Could it be that the professor doesn't trust his medium? Perhaps he's too wealthy to need the money, and just doesn't care about giving it to hungry children or AIDS research.

There is of course a rationale to the jeering, first made explicit, I think, by Martin Gardiner, when he quoted H.L. Mencken's well-known epithet that a horse laugh is worth more than a thousand syllogisms. You can't reason with fools and fakers, so better just to ridicule them. It's right and proper to act like this, because paranormal believers are a threat to our hard-won freedoms. So much of the relative comfort and stability we enjoy, compared to our beknighted ancestors, is thanks to the triumph of reason in our political and social relations, also to the extraordinary feats of science in revealing the truth about the universe, and laying the foundations for technologies. All this is said to be threatened by the tidal wave of superstitious beliefs.

This is a popular theme with scientists. In his book The Demon-Haunted World, the American astronomer Carl Sagan wrote of his foreboding of a time when

"clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to dinstinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness." (28)

We may not agree with this, but it's a legitimate point of view. And paranormal claims are just flat-out incredible. So skepticism per se is absolutely rational. Indeed, for many people in our secular-leaning society, belief in such things as ESP is a deviation from the social norm. The believer is an odd breed who is willing to believe in things that aren't there, clearly prey to delusions and wishful thinking, unable to think critically, and so on. It's implicit in the titles of the debunking books: The Psychology of the Psychic, The Psychology of the Occult, The Psychology of Anomalous Experience, Why People Believe Weird Things.

But the intensity of dogmatism of many of the critics, their violent responses and seeming inability to connect with our reasoning, makes us suspect that there is such a thing as a skeptical psychology. It's not just the believer who is special - there's an awful lot going in skeptics' heads as well. Where skeptics see their automatic dismissal of paranormal claims, even when made by serious scientists, as a necessary and healthy reaction, we often see it as dogmatic, intolerant, and religious in its intensity, indicating a deep emotional commitment to the mechanist worldview. Some even see it as a rerun of the Reformation in a secular setting - with dissenters beating at the gates of the establishment, and embattled scientists defending orthodoxy against their heresies.

Strictly speaking, this isn't skepticism at all, at least in its original sense. Where skepsis, in the original Greek, means rational doubt and probing, the word skeptic has increasingly come to mean defensive and doctrinaire, and a skeptic as someone who identifies with a position and defends it to the bitter end, often striving to downplay, misrepresent or simply ignore the evidence. This is by not necessarily a fair or universal definition, but it's nevertheless one that is increasingly made.

It's important to stress that not all critics think that outright abuse is such a great idea. The point was made explicit by American psychologist and CSICOP member Ray Hyman in the mid 1980s. When confronted with extraordinary claims, he suggested, if would be better for critics, instead of accusing parapsychologists of fraud and charlatanism, to respond with 'rationality, objectivity, fair play, integrity - in short, with accepted scientific principles.'

Unfortunately, he went on,

"scientists are not trained or given models about how to behave under such circumstances. The reactions, understandably if regrettably, are typically confused, ambivalent, erratic, and emotional [...] If there is truly 'pathology' in these cases, the pathology seems to be exhibited as much in the reaction of the scientific community as in the claims of the offending scientist. The gut reaction of the scientific orthodoxy is to discredit the offending claim by any means possible - ad hominem attacks, censorship, innuendo, misrepresentation, etc."

We often see this overreaction where there is the prospect of change and risk. During the 1990s the big controversy was European integration, with skeptics bitterly opposing the implied loss of national identity. Today it's climate change, with skeptics first attempting to deny that it's occurring, and now that that's a dead letter, insisting it's not caused by humans, and there's nothing we can do to stop it. In this particular instance we see tactics that we experience in our own field. Scientists condemned as fraudulent, evidence clumsily altered or misrepresented to support the critics' version. (The Elusive Quarry, 1989, 245 )

That's a partisan view, perhaps, and of course people who take psychical research seriously may be skeptics in either of these categories - or others. For instance they may be creationists, who are of course skeptics of evolution.

On the other hand they are less likely to be Holocaust deniers, who we would probably all agree really has departed from rational and civilised standards. Yet we are coming to understand that there are those in the world, many of them who should know better, for whom rewriting other people's history, or indulging in ludicrous conspiracy theories, comes much more naturally than to deal with the painful internal conflict engendered by incontrovertible facts.

What we see in all these areas - in quite different ways, and to different degrees - is the effect of anxiety, the sense that a certain position or idea must be defended at all costs against an assault, whose implications are unacceptable, unimaginable or even terrifying. That applies as much to psychism as any other category. The undercurrent of anxiety comes through quite strongly in skeptical discourse. It seems curiously excitable. Militant sceptics like James Randi and Martin Gardiner don't just argue - they verbally gesticulate. They complain and denounce.

I've noticed that it's particularly characteristic of psychologists who debunk the paranormal. It's as though contemplating a mind that perceives 'things that aren't there' induces a kind of vertigo, which expresses itself in wild overstatement. I'm thinking for instance of D.H. Rawcliffe, a British psychologist who published an influential debunking book in 1952s. Much of the time, he doesn't really bother to analyse the claims of psychical investigators, he just sweeps them aside as the 'insidious effects of superstition'. At one point he describes the paranormal as a 'dim underworld of psychological automatism, suggestion, hypnosis, hallucination, neurosis, hysteria, functional malady, sensory-hyperacuity, delusion, fraud, prestidigitation, and limitless credulity'. (The Psychology of the Occult, 326). It's the psychologist as explorer, kitting up in a protection suit and for our edification nobly venturing into the sewers of the human mind.

Another example is Hugo Munsterberg, who succeeded William James as professor of psychology at Harvard, and was as bitterly hostile of paranormal belief as James had been interested and engaged. He seems to have felt it was his duty to warn society of the madness that comes from occult interests. His writings suggest a man whose nervous disposition is in constant danger of being overwhelmed by other people's superstitious beliefs. Another famous debunker was the magician Harry Houdini, whose books contain heated denunciations of mediums as 'human leeches' sucking every bit of sense from their victims, and references to mental asylums bursting with insane spiritualists. (A Magician Among The Spirits, 1924, 243)

But what provokes these extreme reactions? Speaking for myself, the idea that some paranormal phenomena might be real intrigues me - I want to know more. I dare say most of you feel the same way. We can be objective about it. But over the years I have come to realise that some people don't think like that at all. They find the idea of telepathy, just to take one category, to be deeply worrying - it seems like the ultimate violation of personal privacy.

Sceptics are sometimes quite explicit about this. One is James Alcock - In a much quoted passage, Alcock considered that a future with psi would be 'chaos'.

"There would, of course, be no privacy, since by extrasensory perception one could see even into people's minds. Dictators would no longer have to trust the words of their followers; they could "know" their feelings. How would people react if they could catch glimpses of the future? How could the stock market function if traders could use precognition? If most people could foresee the future, how would life be with millions of people all attempting to change present circumstances so as to optimize their personal futures? What would happen when two adversaries each tried to harm the other via PK? The gunfights of the Old American West would probably pale by comparison." (Parapsychology: Science or Magic? 1981, 191)

Parapsychologists have of course long been able to demonstrate not only the different profile of believers and skeptics - or sheep and goats as I believe they were first termed by Getrude Schmeidler in her studies back in the 1950s - but also the effect of their different attitudes on psi experiments. Sceptics - identified as such from prior personality profiling - have been found unconsciously to influence the results of psi experiments by consistently producing results lower than would be expected by chance. This, Harvey Irwin says, 'confirms an effect of attitudes on the occurrence of ESP, but also reminds of the adage that there are none so blind as those who will not see'. (An Introduction to Parapsychology, 1999, 99)

Skeptical motivations themselves have had rather less attention. Charles Tart in the 1980s was among the first to draw attention to the fear of psi, pointing out that one way of dealing it is to deny that it exists. He says:

"The vehement denial of the existence of psi, as in the case of some pseudocritics whose behaviour suggests they are protecting their "faith" against heresy, strongly suggests that fear of psi is quite strong in them at an unconscious level. Insofar as psi is an aspect of reality, its denial is inherently psychopathological." ('Acknowledging and Dealing with The Fear of Psi', JASPR, 78, April 1984, 137)

Discussions about this fear have tended to centre on the idea of cognitive dissonance. This is the theory first formulated by social psychologist Leon Festinger back in 1957. It describes the feeling of uncomfortable tension which comes from holding two conflicting thoughts in the mind at the same time. The idea is that people are motivated to reduce dissonance either by changing their attitudes, beliefs and behaviors, or by justifying or rationalizing them.

In this context, cognitive disssonance can occur if one's idea of reality is challenged. A natural response is to deny the challenge, and to ridicule the person who makes it. That's clearly the case with paranormal claims. In 1930, Walter Prince, a respected American psychical investigator, published a very funny book about the intemperate responses he found among scientists and sceptics, and which he titled the Enchanted Boundary. It seemed to him as though when some people approached psychical claims they fell under a strange spell, that forced them to stand up and start loudly spouting nonsense.

In fact this seems to be a fairly typical human response to startling new ideas, by no means limited to the paranormal. Incredulity is a common reaction to new claims in science and technology. New theories that we take for granted today - the classic one of course is Wegener's theory of continental drift - were dismissed out of hand, if not actually derided as the ravings of lunatics, when they were first mooted.

The sense of disbelief is so powerful that it not only motivates people to slander those who make thm , but also refuse point blank to look at the evidence. A number of remarkable examples are described by Richard Milton in his book Alternative Science, which I'm sure many of you are familiar with - if not, I recommend it as a good read, and very relevant to this topic.

One is the case of the Wright brothers. It's not just that people disbelieved in the idea that heavier than air machines could ever fly. That wasn't so unreasonable - there'd been plenty of ludicrous failures, of people strapping artificial wings to their arms and launching themselves off cliffs, with disastrous results. But in this case people went on disbelieving it after the brothers had been doing it for a couple of years and their flights had been repeatedly witnessed by townspeople travelling on the railway next to their landing strip.

You'd expect the news to have travelled like wildfire, but far from it. The editor of the local newspaper thought the idea so obviously absurd that he never even sent a reporter to check it out, and no reporter did so on his own initiative. As for the scientists, Simon Newcomb, a professor of astronomy at John Hopkins University, published an article just weeks before the Wright's first historic flight proving scientifically that powered human flight was 'utterly impossible'. Unsurprisingly Newcomb was also a strident sceptic of parapsychology.

In 1879 Thomas Edison invented the incandescent electric light, but could not convince the scientific establishment that he had succeeded, even after he had rigged up a public demonstration - no scientist attended. A professor who lived nearby might have come to check it out, but instead wrote to a local paper to 'protest in behalf of true science' that his experiments were 'a conspicuous failure, trumpeted as a wonderful success. A fraud upon the public.'

A lighting specialist called his claims 'so manifestly absured as to indicate a positive want of knowledge of the electric circuit and the principles government the construction and operation of electrical machines.' All this language is strikingly similar to that used by leading scientists about psychism - that the paranormal is bunk, telepathy is a charlatan's fantasy, and so on. (Richard Milton, Alternative Science, 1994, 11-23)

This seems nonsensical to us, but I think we have to recognise that the human imagination is not infinitely flexible. Some of us perhaps more than others may have extreme difficulty accommodating new ideas. This was experienced by Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer, a California psychiatrist who wrote a book called Extraordinary Knowing, published posthumously quite recently.

Mayer's journey began when a valuable harp belonging to her young daughter was stolen from a theatre. The police were unable to recover it, and all other conventional channels failed. Then a friend suggested she tried a dowser. So she got someone to recommend the best in the business. He lived in Arkansas, two thousand miles away. She rang him up. He said, hang on, I'll just check to see if its still in your town. Within seconds he had decided it was, and asked her to send a map. A day later he rang back to give her the address where the harp would be found. The police said they did not have enough evidence to get a warrant to enter the house, so she hit on the idea of putting up flyers in the streets outside offering a reward. Almost immediately she got a call, and a few days later the harp was returned.

Mayer struggled with this, but quickly realised the futility of trying to persuade herself that it was a meaningless coincidence. On investigation she discovered that other people were having the same kind of difficulty.
This extraordinary knowing, as she termed it, is especially difficult for people with a scientific education to come to terms with. It contradicts everything they have been taught to believe. But where Mayer's response was to examine her own feelings critically, and to continue to explore the subject, she found other people trying simply to shut the whole thing down.

For instance she cites an article on ESP published in an engineering magazine. In his introductory blurb, the editor said he had decided, after some reflection, that he would publish it, despite some opposition from the peer reviewers. One of them, whose comments he published, apparently thought the research the article described was methodologically impeccable, but still recommended it not be published, adding: "It's the kind of thing I would not believe in even if it were true".

Denial and ridicule is one way to minimise the dissonance caused by paranormal claims. But the mind does actually have its own way of dealing with the problem. Parapsychology offers some rather interesting sidelights on this. It occurs particularly in episodes involving psychokinesis, the anomalous movement of objects, typically in so-called poltergeist incidents and in séance investigations. People who see tables and chairs jumping around apparently of their own volition understandably have trouble believing the evidence of their own eyes. And if they do at first believe what they had seen, the passage of time may subtly alter the memory of it.

One of the first to notice this effect was Charles Richet in his investigations of the trance medium Eusapia Palladino. He observed many extraordinary effects - repeated table levitations, objects floating around the room, curtains billowing up, instruments playing themselves - all in conditions which he and his co-investigators believed were absolutely secure, and which she could not therefore have been directly responsible for. But he found that the memory of having seen them tended to weaken.

"[A]t the moment when these facts take place they seem to us certain, and we are willing to proclaim them openly; but when we return to ourselves, when we feel the irresistible influence of our environment, when our friends all laugh at our credulity - then we are almost disarmed, and we begin to doubt. May it not all have been an illusion? May I not have been grossly deceived? ... And then, as the moment of the experiment becomes more remote, that experiment which once seemed so conclusive gets to seem more and more uncertain, and we end by letting ourselves be persuaded that we have been the victims of a trick." (Quoted in Brian Inglis, Natural and Supernatural, 1977, 394)

Everard Feilding makes a similar point in a famous passage in his report on the investigation of Palladino in Naples. He explains that it took several sessions before he could convince himself of what he was seeing. It was in the sixth session that a breakthrough occurred. Now he found his mind starting to absorb ideas that it had previously repelled, like raindrops streaming off a waterproof coat. For the first time, he said, he had the absolute conviction that their observation was not mistaken, and that hands and heads had indeed appeared from behind the curtain.

Notice too what Feilding says next:

"I refuse to entertain the possibility of a doubt that we were the victims of a hallucination. I appreciate exactly the fact that ninety-nine people out of a hundred will refuse to entertain the possibility of a doubt that it could be anything else. And, remembering my own belief of a very short time ago, I shall not be able to complain, though I shall unquestionably be annoyed, when I find that to be the case. I shall be told that this sudden declaration of conviction is absurdly hasty, highly unphilosophical and unworthy of a student of psychic science."

And here's the crux:

"Perhaps it is; but the precise moment at which conviction is reached differs in individuals not, I think, according to the cogency of the facts presented to them, but according to their willingness to abandon a position which they feel to have become untenable." ('Report on a Series of Sittings with Eusapia Palladino,' Proceedings of the SPR, 1909, p. 462-3.

These are the reactions of two highly experienced investigators who had plenty of opportunity to understand the phenomenon, and yet seem to have been rather surprised by it. At least they became aware of it. But one would suppose that a great many people were not at all aware of it, and there are intimations of that in the literature of the mind rejecting the evidence of its own eyes.

It was quite common, for instance, for visitors to a séance to come out shaking their heads with wonder at the extraordinary things they had seen, and then weeks or months later to confidently describe them as tricks. This of course doesn't mean that they were not conjuring tricks, but it does illustrate a natural mental trajectory.

In one case we find a well-known physicist named Sir David Brewster enthusiastically writing up his diary after a Daniel Home seance: a handbell rang when nothing could have touched it, actually floating through the air and placing itself in his hand. At the time he couldn't imagine such strange effects. Three months later he was saying not just that the handbell had not rung, but that the tricks were caused by machinery attached to Home's feet. The discrepancy was only noticed when his papers were published after his death.

This process, of initial wonderment being replaced with scepticism, was often documented with Uri Geller. One instance concerns a Sunday Times reporter named Brian Silcock. Geller had caused Silcock's thick office key to bend while it was lying in the flat of the hand of the paper's photographer. In his article Silcock wrote: 'It is utterly impossible to remain sceptical after seeing Uri Geller in action,' adding, 'I am convinced that Geller is a telepath too,' after Uri had reproduced pictures the journalist was only thinking, but had not drawn.

However over the years, Silcock reversed his opinion. He now says: 'I became convinced in my own mind that it was just a conjuring trick. I've no idea how the trick was done, but I think there was a process of my natural scepticism reasserting itself. I tend to be of a rather sceptical, downbeat frame of mind, and I somehow got shoved out of it. I don't really understand how that happened, either.'

It's also worth noting that John Taylor, a well-respected physicist who at first enthusiastically endorsed Geller, subsequently changed his opinion, although peer pressure and a failure to discover the mechanism may have also played a role. It's important to point out that such cases say little about whether we are dealing with psychokinesis or clever conjuring, but they do illustrate an odd mental process at work which we need to be aware of.

I'd guess too that it occurs in most categories of paranormal experience. There's at least one possible example in near-death literature of the way that the passing of time can influence the memory of events.

It concerns the case of A J Ayer, a well-known atheist philosopher who in 1988 was admitted to hospital with pneumonia. While there he suffered a fit that led to him being clinically dead for several minutes. In an article published three months later Ayer described having what seems to have been a near-death experience, of being pulled towards a bright red light, and trying to cross a river, which he took to be the River Styx of Greek legend. However he insisted this had not at all altered his absolute disbelief in the idea of life after death.

Some years later, the junior house doctor who had attended Ayer claimed that shortly after he had been resuscitated he had confided to him rather sheepishly that he had met a 'divine being' and that he would now have to revise all his books and opinions'. One shouldn't put too much credence on posthumously revealed statements of this kind, but if it's true it illustrates an observable trend.

But victims of cognitive dissonance do not necessarily just wait for the impression to fade. They can take quick and aggressive action. Again there is abundant evidence of this in both poltergeist and séance literature in the phenomenon of the invented confession. In such cases, the odds are that sooner or later someone, usually a person who is only marginally involved in the case - or not involved at all - will step forward with a claim that the individual at the centre of it has confessed to trickery or has been caught red-handed in fraud.

The claim superficially provides an explanation and is gratefully accepted as such by sceptics, who quote it for ever after as a damning expose of fraud and chicanery. Yet when you look at it closely you see it leaves a great deal unexplained, was never corroborated in any way, and appears to have no real substance outside the imagination of the person who proposed it.

A poltergeist example, one of many, is the famous Miami case investigated by William Roll. This involved a warehouse where souvenirs and knick-knacks kept falling off shelves, for no apparent reason. The disturbances were witnessed by a number of independent investigators, including a local magician, who at first made light of them, and showed how he could create them by sleight of hand, but after repeated observation realised that he couldn't explain them after all.

This got some coverage in the local press. Eventually a news item appeared that Julio, the young man at the centre of the disturbances, had confessed to police that he had caused them by trickery. The article said Julio had described using a system of threads; he also placed objects at the edges of the shelves so that vibrations from jets passing overhead caused them to fall. However Julio told the policeman to his face that it was a total lie and that he had said no such thing. According to Julio's boss, who was present during this exchange, the policeman did not deny that he had invented the story when speaking to a reporter, and only became red in the face. (William Roll, The Poltergeist, p. 173.

A particularly interesting example is a 1919 episode that occurred in a Norfolk rectory, where enormous quantities of oil and water suddenly started cascading down from the walls and ceilings. The phenomenon could not be explained or even stopped, and was confirmed by various witnesses, including an architect, a geologist, a chemist, and apparently even a magician who had gone there to debunk it; the problem got so bad that the house had to be vacated.

The mystery was 'resolved' in a press account some ten days after the start of the disturbance, in which an Oswald Williams, describing himself as an illusionist, said that he and his wife had laid a trap for the resident's 15-year old maid. The couple had laid out glasses of water, concealed themselves and waited: sure enough, the girl came into the room, threw the water up onto the ceiling, and cried out that another shower had occurred. When confronted with her trickery, Williams said, she 'broke down and made a clean breast of it'. Yet when the girl herself was quizzed about this scenario by local reporters she vigorously denied it, insisting the couple had merely persuaded her to go the house with them and then tried to bully her into confessing. 'I was told that I would be given one minute to say I had done it, or go to prison. I said that I didn't do it.' A.R.G. Owen, Can We Explain the Poltergeist? p. 73-5.

As I say, I could give lots and lots of examples of this sort of thing. And what it rather obviously suggests is that some people will go to any lengths to try to change the facts to something that they find easier to live with, to the extent of making stuff up.

The really interesting thing about this is that once a confession of the kind has made it into print it becomes part of the sceptical canon, and can be treated as though it was fact. A great deal of what debunkers write in their books is not really researched at all closely, but simply lifted from earlier books - and much of this consists of confessions and exposes which, on closer examination, are really no such thing. They are really just allegations or speculations that have acquired the status of fact. But they can nevertheless have the power to shape perceptions.

Here's an article by psychologist Scot Morris, published in Kendrick Frazier's Paranormal Boderlands of Science, in which he describes his own experience in this regard.

"I believed in ESP. I was a teenager and had read one of those "Incredible Tales" paperbacks, and I believed. A patient teacher pointed out the fallacies and flimsy evidence on which I was basing this belief, and I began to wonder. Then there was a newspaper story about poltergeist - very exciting and mysterious. I believed, and tried to convince others, until two weeks later when I read in a follow-up story that the boy confessed to fooling his parents and the investigators "for a little excitement."

If one is serious about getting the bottom of the poltergeist phenomenon - and I'd argue that that's not often the case - one should take these sorts of claims with a strong pinch of salt, especially when the media is inivolved. But of course people take them at face value - it's what they expect and on some level perhaps even need to hear. In this particular case, the shock seems to have brought about a sort of conversion.

"The experience was embarrassing, but it taught me a valuable lesson- that I could be fooled. I was determined not to be fooled again. I am convinced that the best way to develop a healthy skepticism toward the many incredible tales one hears in life is not to go about disbelieving everything blindly, but first to believe, with all one's heart, and then suddenly and dramatically be disabused of the idea. The lesson, like a pie in the face, is never forgotten." (Kendrick Frazier, ed., Paranormal Boderlands of Science)

Many sceptics have had this experience, of being abruptly disabused of a belief, and it has had a powerful impact. From this moment an enduring belief in the fallacy of paranormal claims is formed.

This appears to have been a rather sudden conversion, but it can happen over a longer period. That seems to have been the case with Michael Shermer, author of Why People Believe in Weird Things and one of America's best known sceptics. In his younger days Shermer followed a career as a racing cyclist. His coach was into various alternative regimens and supplements, which he forced on Shermer with ever greater abandon. Eventually Shermer started to become critical, and ended by becoming disgusted with all such New Age approaches and regimens.

Susan Blackmore is someone else who made the journey from enthusiastic believer to committed sceptic. As she says herself, she moved from being open minded to being closed minded. Precisely when she lost her faith in the reality of psi is a bit hard to determine. What we do know is that she attributes it to the failure to find psi in her own experiments.

But as Rick Berger has suggested in the Journal of the American SPR, this failure may just as well have been a consequence of her growing disbelief, not a cause of it. He claims that her experiments actually do show significance in many respects, but she explained it away on the grounds of various flaws, as any sceptic might when trying to dismiss a parapsychologist's positive results. This incidentally is a tactic that other sceptics have adopted, as Richard Wiseman did for instance, when he unintentionally obtained significance in experiments on the sense of being stared at. (The Journal of the American Society for Psychical research
Vol 83, April 1989, 123-144)

Blackmore has written frankly and frequently about her feelings in this regard, and I think that's useful. In a way we need more of it, from both sides, as it helps shed light on the influences that shape beliefs and attitudes towards the paranormal - in either direction. One remark of hers that I do recall reading recently - and I don't have the exact reference for this, but I'm trying to track it down - is an admission that she approaches parapsychological studies with some reluctance, for fear that it might force her to amend her ideas.

I'm sure that this is not exclusive to sceptics - I've observed it in myself, although much less now than I used to - and I suspect it happens on both sides of all sorts of controversies. Nevertheless an unwillingness to engage with the opposition does seem especially characteristic of militant sceptics of the paranormal.

David Leiter is a member of the Society for Scientific Exploration who for several years was involved with a local Skeptics' organization in Pennsylvania. This was the "Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking", better known by its acronym "PhACT". As he became closely acquainted with individual members he found that all those who discussed their early years had either had religion stuffed down their throats, or had voluntarily embraced it, and then become convinced of their folly, and thrown it off with a vengeance.

Obviously, Leiter points out, a person who has been duped frequently in everyday life might learn by bitter experience to be cautious and wary. But he believes the reaction of PhACT members is more dysfunctional.

"They have been wounded at a deeper level, to the extent that what was purported to be a valid philosophy of life, and in which they were heavily involved, turns out to be empty and useless, even damaging, in their eyes. Thus, they gravitate to what appears to them to be the ultimate non-faith-based philosophy, Science."

Leiter thought at first that the members were too lazy to investigate the literature of psychical research, but then started to feel that they were actually phobic about being exposed to material that contradicts their beliefs, fearing contamination, as he puts it. He concludes:

"Such scientifically inclined, but psychologically scarred people tend to join Skeptics' organizations much as one might join any other support group, say, Alcoholics Anonymous. There they find comfort, consolation, and support amongst their own kind. Anyone who has spent much time engaging members of Skeptics' organizations knows about their strong inclination toward ridicule and ad hominem criticism of those with differing viewpoints." (Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 125-128, 2002 0892-3310/02)

I'm going to wrap this up by suggesting that parapsychology could usefully devote a bit more time and resources to understanding how sceptics think, and making it part of its case. We tend to complain about our opponents' intellectual dishonesty, ideological dogmatism, and so on and so on. But we aren't really going to convince them, or get them to be more reasonable. What we might conceivably do is lessen the negative effect of their discourse on perceptions among the wider public. We need to educate people about the workings of cognitive dissonance, to show how the fear of psychism can in some people engender fearful and violent reactions, and how these can influence the course of debate.

It's arguably the business of parapsychology to identify the psychological gag reflex with which humans are equipped, to a greater or lesser degree, that causes us to rationalise away paranormal experiences and, if the emergency is really dire, with invented exposes and confessions. This isn't just about getting back at our militant opponents, its about explaining to our audience that they need to be aware of what may be going on in their own minds when they read about telepathy or apparitions or near-death experiences, and the need often to observe their own mental processes - the detective watching the detective so to speak.

Finally of course there's a big issue here, which is the extent to which the data of parapsychology can be assessed objectively. If our responses to paranormal phenomena are necessarily subjective - and some people's more than others - how do we arrive at a universal consensus about it, one that we can be sure is true and reliable?

The short answer is that that's the job of science, to come up with evidence that is repeatable on demand, and lays all doubts to rest. The classic example would be quantum mechanics. The behaviour of matter at the sub-atomic level is in some respects so Alice in Wonderland that it couldn't possibly be true, were it not for the fact that it's repeatedly observed. The idea of particles being somehow connected over space is an affront to common sense, but scientists have learned to live with it because it's something they see happening all the time.

The impact or otherwise of experimental parapsychology is a large subject, but it's clear enough that the statistical effects gained in the ganzfield, remote viewing and staring experiments, for instance, has not reached sufficient scale and intensity to impact on the universal imagination. Certainly not in the way that the actual experience of an apparition or near-death experience impacts on an individual. Subjectivity is something parapsychology is fated always to deal with. The more we can understand about the role it plays, the more indeed we can objectify it, the more easily we will be able to make ourselves and our claims understood.

Gr8wight
8th November 2008, 11:41 AM
Chanting, "Randi's a mean old man," over and over again doesn't change the fact that none of the so-called scientists you name can produce a single piece of compelling evidence to support their ideas. Many of them (I'm looking at you Gary Schwartz) actively hide their empirical data so the skeptics cannot point out the failings of their studies.

blutoski
8th November 2008, 11:46 AM
I'm going to update the link, as the link in the original post goes to another article now.

[SPR Study Day - The Psychology of the Sceptic (http://monkeywah.typepad.com/paranormalia/2008/11/spr-study-day---the-psychology-of-the-sceptic.html)]

(and I'm not sure how long it will be until the mods alter the original post a la rule 4.)

blutoski
8th November 2008, 12:24 PM
To address the original post... there's a lot of claims in the article. Lots of falsehoods (such as the Edison incandescent bulb urban legend). What's the question, exactly?

Also, as Gr8wight points out: even if some skeptics are hostile, what does that have to do with the price of tea in China? Einstein's critics were conservative, hostile, and antisemitic to boot. But science adopted his findings because they were independently verifiable, reproduceable, and were the best explanation for the observations.

So, here's the paragraph that concerns me the most:
I'm going to wrap this up by suggesting that parapsychology could usefully devote a bit more time and resources to understanding how sceptics think, and making it part of its case. We tend to complain about our opponents' intellectual dishonesty, ideological dogmatism, and so on and so on. But we aren't really going to convince them, or get them to be more reasonable. What we might conceivably do is lessen the negative effect of their discourse on perceptions among the wider public. We need to educate people about the workings of cognitive dissonance, to show how the fear of psychism can in some people engender fearful and violent reactions, and how these can influence the course of debate.

I see. Skeptics have made progress by bringing attention to psi's weak body of evidence, so the solution is not to produce better evidence, but to shoot for better PR by saying skeptics are all a bunch of head cases.

Well, why not? It worked for Stalin. That new idea Lysenkoism is throwing those dogmatic conservative Darwinist biologists into histrionics? Ship 'em off to mental institutions. Science is too important for scientists to be deciding what is - or is not - science.

Moochie
8th November 2008, 12:36 PM
What possessed you to post a novelette here?

I may read it when I have a spare week or two.


M.

Brattus
8th November 2008, 01:50 PM
People actually sat and listened to this? WOW!

Gord_in_Toronto
8th November 2008, 01:56 PM
There is no organization of Professional Skeptics to which we belong. Each of us is a skeptic based on our understanding of how the Universe works and how to apply logic to any statements or problems.

A main thesis of this article re skeptics appears to be that when one of us sees a true demonstration of psi we eventually talk ourselves into believing it has a mundane explanation (aka "trick").

One could better say that with further knowledge and understanding the scales are taken from our eyes and we recognized that we were tricked.

Eusapia Palladino, for example, convinced people of her "abilities" while performing in the dark. We now know many ways these tricks can be performed -- in the dark.

The primary reasoning against the existence of most (if not all) psi phenomena is that they can be recreated by simple trickery. Nothing Geller has ever done has anything but a mundane explanation.

IMHO of course. :duck:

PS I'm off to see Penn and Teller perform on Monday. :D

blutoski
8th November 2008, 02:02 PM
There is no organization of Professional Skeptics to which we belong. Each of us is a skeptic based on our understanding of how the Universe works and how to apply logic to any statements or problems.

In the author's defense, the targets of his criticism were (and some still are) professional skeptics by every description I can think of. Most of the events he describes involve dialogue with CSICOP founders/members, with the exception of Houdini, who was at that time making a good living as a medium exposer/debunker.

cj.23
8th November 2008, 02:07 PM
People actually sat and listened to this? WOW!

Yes, including a recent TAM guest speaker and member of the SPR as I recall. :) You should get out more!

I noticed the Edison issue as well. :) Most of the rest appears olid to me in terms of claims - any other flaws?

cj x

cj.23
8th November 2008, 02:11 PM
Eusapia Palladino, for example, convinced people of her "abilities" while performing in the dark. We now know many ways these tricks can be performed -- in the dark.


Palladino is a complex case. Have you read the Fielding Report? I did after Richard Wiseman published an article on it in the JSPR. I find it hard to believe Fielding Baggaly and Carington were deceived by Eusapia, at least by the hidden accomplice route. I have no doubt she did use fraud on many occasions, including probbaly this one, but its almost impossible to tell at this remove... They knew many ways then - don't forget the investigative team included a first rate stage conjurer.

cj x

Gord_in_Toronto
8th November 2008, 02:46 PM
Palladino is a complex case. Have you read the Fielding Report? I did after Richard Wiseman published an article on it in the JSPR. I find it hard to believe Fielding Baggaly and Carington were deceived by Eusapia, at least by the hidden accomplice route. I have no doubt she did use fraud on many occasions, including probbaly this one, but its almost impossible to tell at this remove... They knew many ways then - don't forget the investigative team included a first rate stage conjurer.

cj x

I can't really disagree with you but this is true of so many historical mediums. I think we are a little bit wiser and have better technology today to investigate these things. (And no I don't mean the idiot "ghost hunters" wandering around with their "detectors"). :)

blutoski
8th November 2008, 03:06 PM
I can't really disagree with you but this is true of so many historical mediums. I think we are a little bit wiser and have better technology today to investigate these things. (And no I don't mean the idiot "ghost hunters" wandering around with their "detectors"). :)

I wish. The Palladino situation is also clouded with accusations of bribery. People don't change, and if some investigator is willing to authenticate a medium in exchange for 'favours', it's hard to prevent, and hard to prove.

Hokulele
8th November 2008, 03:30 PM
Response to the Leiter piece quoted in the OP.

http://www.gwup.org/themen/texte/skeptikerpuc/phact.pdf

Jontg
8th November 2008, 09:29 PM
There's nothing dogmatic or doctrinaire about what we do here. We don't discriminate between superstitions just because one is mainstream and the other isn't, and we certainly don't have an emotional investment in being right; we killed his ghosts with the same dispassionate hand that killed Bigfoot, God, and the Illuminati. If anything, I'd enjoy being proven wrong; I know from experience that it invariably betters my life.

CFLarsen
9th November 2008, 12:26 AM
Finding it hard to believe that other people were not deceived is nothing but an appeal to ignorance.

"I can't believe it's not butter". Well, it isn't.

If a medium is caught cheating once, why on Earth should she get the benefit of the doubt from then on? Instead, it should be emphasized that if she cheated once, there is even more reason to believe that she cheated since then, especially in those cases where it is hard to tell if she was.

Ersby
9th November 2008, 03:14 AM
A bit meh. Although I'm no psychologist and cannot talk about that aspect, he did make a couple of factualblunders - Talking about Berger's critique of Blackmore's work without mentioning Blackmore's pretty withering response is a lazy mistake. And Wiseman's significant results into remote staring vanished after a couple of replications.

Pixel42
9th November 2008, 04:57 AM
The interesting thing about the talk is that if you did a global find-and-replace of "skeptic" with "paranormal believer" you'd have the beginnings of a reasonable talk about "The Psychology of the Paranormal Believer". The very phenomena that we know trick people into believing that the things they want to believe are true - cognitive dissonance etc - are here twisted to account for a worldview which in fact demands that such biases be ignored unless the beliefs they apparently support are confirmed by methodologies which are designed to exclude their influence. Weird.

cj.23
9th November 2008, 08:15 AM
Finding it hard to believe that other people were not deceived is nothing but an appeal to ignorance.

"I can't believe it's not butter". Well, it isn't.

If a medium is caught cheating once, why on Earth should she get the benefit of the doubt from then on? Instead, it should be emphasized that if she cheated once, there is even more reason to believe that she cheated ince then, especially in those cases where it is hard to tell if she was.

Well I don't really mean to hash over Palladino again, or the Fielding Report, or Wiseman's critique of it -- but my point was as I thought I made clear, that I did not find it likely that these individuals were deceived by the method suggested. I have no doubt Palladino cheated on many occasions, and as I said probably on this one. It's not an appeal to authority, its a simple statement of muy understanding of the probabilty - one professional magician and two amateurs were unlikley to be taken I think by the hidden panel and accomplice trick - given they had control of the environment, and the seances were conducted in part light as i recall? There are also physical issues with the time it would take to prepare the room, given that the seance room was not known for long in advance. I'm speaking from memory though, I'll look up Richard's interesting JSPR article from the mid-90's and the two or three responses to iit and the Fielding Report itself if i have time. :) My memory is very fallible!

However logically even if she DID possess genuine abilities, she might still have cheated -- the SPR as far as I recall had a rule that all investigations ended once a medium was caught cheating however.. The later accusations of commercial gain (against Hereward Carrington who took her to the USA) I am familiar with, but bribery? Another poster mentioned that, and I don't know that one?

cj x

CFLarsen
9th November 2008, 09:35 AM
Being a magician does not mean you can't be fooled.

On the contrary, being a magician is knowing that magicians can also be fooled.

cj.23
9th November 2008, 10:19 AM
Being a magician does not mean you can't be fooled.

On the contrary, being a magician is knowing that magicians can also be fooled.

Agreed absolutely. It does make certain methods less likely though. Mind you I have no idea what Richard Wiseman is like as a historian of magic, but he is a pretty neat conjurer himself. I've learned a couple of tricks from talks of his, and chatting to him in the past.

We therefore have to also bear in mind that historians of magic and magicians may have different expectations when it comes to the likelihood of a trick being detected at a certain period as well, and even Houdini was puzzled on occasion by some escape tricks, though perhaps loathe to admit it...

And I still want to know how Eusapia pulled off the Naples thing. Mind you, ditto the Scole affair not so very long ago! :)

cj x

fls
10th November 2008, 05:59 AM
I wonder if there are any psychologists who would care to read this and comment on it. Of course any comments from anyone are welcome as well. :)

SPR Study Day - The Psychology of the Sceptic (http://www.paranormalia.com/)

I think this is an interesting read, but while it starts out with the pretense that it is a serious bit of social psychology, the author really just seems to have taken an opportunity to indulge in whining and special pleading to a non-critical audience (presuming he didn't get booed off the stage).

I can concede all of the author's points - I don't really know if the stories about Edison or the Wright brothers are true, although one could guess that they may be subject to misrepresentation, since some of the other information in the speech is - and it still doesn't advance parapsychology one bit. Recognizing what it is that must be overcome in order to gain a wider acceptance of your idea does not excuse you from the necessity of making that attempt. The author destroys his own argument by providing numerous examples clearly showing that the pathway to acceptance was not by "explaining to our audience that they need to be aware of what may be going on in their own minds".

Linda

godless dave
10th November 2008, 03:57 PM
If a medium is caught cheating once, why on Earth should she get the benefit of the doubt from then on?

Because it's mean and you'll hurt her feewings, you big meanie.

Soapy Sam
10th November 2008, 04:06 PM
Re the OP- I would simply point out that people are human. There are some rather nasty types on both sides of the fence. The same intolerance is shown by both. I think the sceptics have the vast majority of evidence on their side though- and that is what counts.



And I still want to know how Eusapia pulled off the Naples thing. Mind you, ditto the Scole affair not so very long ago! :)

cj x
I know two witnesses to Scole, whom I trust as honest(though of course foolable). I can think of no explanation of what they say they saw, unless they were drugged. Even then, there is a consistency to their accounts inconsistent with hypnotics or hallucinogens.

If you have any hypothesis on the matter I'd be interested to read it.

Limbo
11th November 2008, 05:24 PM
Re the OP- I would simply point out that people are human.


Speak for yourself! :p

I think the sceptics have the vast majority of evidence on their side though- and that is what counts.


Chris: You have to remember that the argument is not really about the evidence. The argument is about their assumptions and their preconceptions. Their preconceptions are, with these sort of phenomena, that they don’t make any sense and challenge their world view. So, they’re going to do anything they possibly can to dismiss evidence that challenges their preconceptions.

Alex: I don’t agree with you, and one of the good things about really getting in and really creating a dialogue with these guys is – what I see is – they really believe that they have examined the evidence, and they believe that they’ve honestly come to a different conclusion.

http://www.skeptiko.com/blog/?p=38

tyr_13
11th November 2008, 07:02 PM
You all don't understand! This piece is science because it has the word psychology in it.

See, skeptics even reject science just to fit their biased world view.

I do find it very funny that many different groups us the tactic of 'accuse the opposition of exactly what we're doing'. A short list: Direct TV v. Cable, Mac v. PC, believers v. skeptics.

Gr8wight
11th November 2008, 07:46 PM
Chris: You have to remember that the argument is not really about the evidence. The argument is about their assumptions and their preconceptions. Their preconceptions are, with these sort of phenomena, that they don’t make any sense and challenge their world view. So, they’re going to do anything they possibly can to dismiss evidence that challenges their preconceptions.

That's right. Demanding actual evidence before accepting unlikely claims is unfair, and closed minded!

Ersby
12th November 2008, 12:48 AM
The argument is about their assumptions and their preconceptions. Their preconceptions are, with these sort of phenomena, that they don’t make any sense and challenge their world view.

I read his most recent posting about coincidence which, coming right after post about the psychology of the skeptic, was pretty ironic. In it he alludes to the idea that coincidences somehow point to an underlying truth. I find this thinking pretty shoddy, and mirrors exactly the kind of thinking he's criticising in others. In other words, there are too many psi-believers out there for whom...

Their preconceptions are, with these sort of phenomena, that they make perfect sense and reaffirm their world view.

Moochie
12th November 2008, 04:57 AM
That's right. Demanding actual evidence before accepting unlikely claims is unfair, and closed minded!

Yep. There's just no getting away from evidence, or the lack of it. Believers in fantasy can bitch all they like about those pesky skeptics; all it shows is an inherent intolerance for reality.


M.

Sefarst
12th November 2008, 05:39 AM
The impact or otherwise of experimental parapsychology is a large subject, but it's clear enough that the statistical effects gained in the ganzfield, remote viewing and staring experiments, for instance, has not reached sufficient scale and intensity to impact on the universal imagination. Certainly not in the way that the actual experience of an apparition or near-death experience impacts on an individual. Subjectivity is something parapsychology is fated always to deal with. The more we can understand about the role it plays, the more indeed we can objectify it, the more easily we will be able to make ourselves and our claims understood.

I don't think anyone misunderstands the claims or misunderstands the people that make the claims. We just don't believe them. The best way to root out this subjectivity that "parapsychology is fated always to deal with" is to subject it to the rigorous examination of skeptics. If your claims can survive that, you've succeeded in objectifying them.

Limbo
12th November 2008, 07:38 AM
Pathological Disbelief (http://www.skepticalinvestigations.org/exam/Josephson_disbelief.pdf)

Brian D. Josephson

Department of Physics, University of Cambridge

Lecture given at the Nobel Laureates’ meeting Lindau, June 30th., 2004

[...]

Characteristics of scientific sceptics, according to Beaudette:

1. They do not express their criticisms in those venues where it will be subject to peer review.

2. They do not go into the laboratory and practice the experiment along with the practitioner.

3. Assertions are offered as though they were scientifically based when in fact they are mere guesses.

4. Satire, dismissal and slander are freely employed.

5. When explanations are advanced ... ad hoc reasons are constantly advanced for their rejection. These reasons often assert offhand that the explanation violates some conservation law.

6. Evidence is rejected outright if it does not answer every possible question at the outset

[...]

Usually, experiments and their analysis determines what the scientific community thinks about a subject.

With parapsychology a dominant factor is editor power, (the ability to control journal content), combined with the ease of making denunciations if the situation is such that, as is typically the case, assertions that are made do not have to be properly substantiated.

Here we have an extract from an unusually candid letter from a Nature editor:

“We are not keen at all on considering an article about the paranormal, but if you think there is something significantly new to be said on this well-worn and antiscientific topic and want to submit an article ... I will read it, discuss it with my colleagues and let you have our views.”

Conclusion: why bother with facts, when it’s so much easier to be an armchair critic?

Now what about the argument "if X were true, we’d have to start all over again?"

I have news for such people: physicists did decide they needed to start all over again (string theory, M-theory, quintessence, cosmological constant ...). Anything goes among the physics community (time travel, cosmic wormholes ...), just as long as it keeps its distance from anything remotely mystical or New Ageish, because we, the keepers of that special kind of knowledge we call science, are quite certain that such people have it all wrong ... :rolleyes:

Ersby
12th November 2008, 08:27 AM
None of what Brian said applies only to skeptics.

And did he really include a smiley in his presentation?

fls
12th November 2008, 08:29 AM
Limbo,

I'm really struggling to find your point. I realize that you have been persuaded that the evidence for various paranormal phenomena is such that it should be more generally accepted - that there is a reluctance that unfairly holds back the dissemination of these ideas. What I'm wondering, if we concede the idea that sometimes (maybe even often) human nature interferes with the search for knowledge, is how you think that advances the field of parapsychology? You have amply demonstrated that ideas subject to satire, dismissal and slander, criticized in venues not subject to peer-reivew, rejected for spurious reasons, or that require us to start all over again within a field, can gain widespread acceptance. What you have not demonstrated is why parapsychology should be considered exempt from that consideration.

Linda

remirol
12th November 2008, 08:59 AM
Here we have an extract from an unusually candid letter from a Nature editor:

“We are not keen at all on considering an article about the paranormal, but if you think there is something significantly new to be said on this well-worn and antiscientific topic and want to submit an article ... I will read it, discuss it with my colleagues and let you have our views.”

Conclusion: why bother with facts, when it’s so much easier to be an armchair critic?

Have you considered the possibility that the editor is just tired of seeing submissions with no facts or evidence attached, hence his request for something "significantly new"?

Limbo
12th November 2008, 11:15 AM
I'm really struggling to find your point.


I'm surprised to hear you say that. I thought you were more insightful than that.

Anyway I'm not taking questions atm...not really in the mood. I'm only giving food for thought which people are free to reject or consider.

"The Fundamentalist Christians have told me that I am a slave of Satan and should have the demons expelled with an exorcism. The Fundamentalist Materialists inform me that I am a liar, a charlatan, fraud and scoundrel. Aside from this minor difference, the letters are astoundingly similar. Both groups share in the same crusading zeal and the same total lack of humor, charity, and common human decency.

These intolerable cults have served to confirm me in my agnosticism by presenting further evidence to support my contention that when dogmas enter the brain, all intellectual activity ceases."

http://www.rawilson.com/trigger1.shtml

"In the editorial of the March/April 2003 issue of Infinite Energy, the late Gene Mallove reports on breakthrough research in acupuncture which showed that stimulating a specific acupuncture point in the foot leads to instantaneous activation of the visual cortex of the brain. Measurement of the speed of transmission was only limited by the instrumentation's time resolution and shown to be "at least 1,000 times any known nerve transmission speed". This important result was

"submitted to Science, and then Nature, which both rejected without review according to Dr. Joie Jones. Subsequently, five sympathetic Nobel laureates in the biological sciences, who were impressed with the paper, urged Nature to reconsider its decision. It did not. Therefore, the paper had to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which does not censor the work of its participants."

Again, the leading scientific journals of the world take it upon themselves to act as a paradigm police- suppressing information that could revolutionize our understanding of nature.

http://www.suppressedscience.net/news.html

remirol
12th November 2008, 11:30 AM
Anyway I'm not taking questions atm...not really in the mood. I'm only giving food for thought which people are free to reject or consider.

Oh. You should've told us this was an "output-only" thread back at the beginning... would have saved me a lot of time. In the future, could you please flag those threads in which you intend to talk, but not listen, in some way, so I can pre-emptively discard them and move on to actual discussion threads?

fls
12th November 2008, 11:32 AM
I'm surprised to hear you say that. I thought you were more insightful than that.

That's okay. You answered my question here:

Anyway I'm not taking questions atm...not really in the mood. I'm only giving food for thought which people are free to reject or consider.

Linda

kookbreaker
12th November 2008, 11:40 AM
One is the case of the Wright brothers. It's not just that people disbelieved in the idea that heavier than air machines could ever fly. That wasn't so unreasonable - there'd been plenty of ludicrous failures, of people strapping artificial wings to their arms and launching themselves off cliffs, with disastrous results. But in this case people went on disbelieving it after the brothers had been doing it for a couple of years and their flights had been repeatedly witnessed by townspeople travelling on the railway next to their landing strip.


Not quite true. Remember that the Wright brothers were very, very coy about doing demonstrations. They had only select witnesses, and avoided anyone who would knew anything about powered flight since they were afraid their patents would be stolen. They didn't publicly demonstrate their craft until years later.


You'd expect the news to have travelled like wildfire, but far from it. The editor of the local newspaper thought the idea so obviously absurd that he never even sent a reporter to check it out, and no reporter did so on his own initiative.


Indifference of reporters is not an issue.


As for the scientists, Simon Newcomb, a professor of astronomy at John Hopkins University, published an article just weeks before the Wright's first historic flight proving scientifically that powered human flight was 'utterly impossible'. Unsurprisingly Newcomb was also a strident sceptic of parapsychology.

Gross misrepresentation. Newcomb's claim (and at the time it was accurate) was that man could not fly without crashing on landing. He was right. The Wright brother's flights pretty much ended with a controlled crash. He never said flight was impossible. His exact quote was:

"Once he slackens his speed, down he begins to fall--Once he stops, he falls as a dead mass."

The concept of landing was a problem for all aviators of the time. In the same comments he stated:


“Quite likely the twentieth century is destined to see the natural forces which will enable us to fly from continent to continent with a speed far exceeding that of a bird. But when we inquire whether aerial flight is possible in the present state of our knowledge; whether, with such materials as we possess, a combination of steel, cloth and wire can be made which, moved by the power of electricity or steam, shall form a successful flying machine, the outlook may be altogether different.”

In other words, he was afraid the materials and technology might not be up to snuff.

So, we have a deceptive use of the Wright Brothers.

I point out to 'paranormalists' who point to the Wrights that even with skepticism, they were able to fly. And ten years later planes were making a decisive difference in WW1.

Go ahead, tell me any paranormal 'experiments' will come to even a fraction of that kind of accomplishment ten years from now.

Limbo
12th November 2008, 12:37 PM
Oh. You should've told us this was an "output-only" thread back at the beginning... would have saved me a lot of time. In the future, could you please flag those threads in which you intend to talk, but not listen, in some way, so I can pre-emptively discard them and move on to actual discussion threads?

I presented material and asked for comments, which people are providing. And I appreciate it.

I don't see why I have to get involved in dragged out debate about it, it's not necessary and it won't solve anything. I'm interested in gathering responses, not debating material. Just respond to the material if you wish, or ignore it. No one is holding a gun to anyone's head...I'm not forcing to all to comment. Neither will I be bullied into a pointless debate at this time.

fls
12th November 2008, 12:45 PM
http://www.suppressedscience.net/news.html

One should almost ask them not to give examples. :)

Here is the paper that is referred to in the quotes:

http://www.pnas.org/content/95/5/2670.full

Other examples include the work of Masaru Emoto.

Dean Radin suggests that the research by Daniel Simons using the famous gorilla clip (http://www.uni-mannheim.de/fakul/psycho/irtel/lehre/seminar-wahr/Simons_Chabris_Gorillas_in_our_midst_1999.pdf) accounts for knowledgeable scientists' lack of belief.

Yet it never seems to occur to them that asking us to accept such patently ridiculous 'evidence' for their argument serves only to weaken their point (that lack of acceptance is based on prejudice) and support our point (that acceptance corresponds to evidence).

Linda

Limbo
12th November 2008, 12:53 PM
What Gorilla?: Why Some Can't See Psychic Phenomena (http://www.realitysandwich.com/what_gorilla)

[...]

"Because of these blind spots, some common aspects of human experience literally cannot be seen by those who've spent decades embedded within the Western scientific worldview. That worldview, like any set of cultural beliefs inculcated from childhood, acts like the blinders they put on skittish horses to keep them calm. Between the blinders we see with exceptional clarity, but seeing beyond the blinders is not only exceedingly difficult, after a while it's easy to forget that your vision is restricted.

An important class of human experience that these blinders exclude is psychic phenomena, those commonly reported spooky experiences, such as telepathy and clairvoyance, that suggest we are deeply interconnected in ways that transcend the ordinary senses and our everyday notions of space and time.

Exclusion of these phenomena creates a Catch 22: Human experiences credibly reported throughout history, across all cultures, and at all educational levels, repeatedly tell us that psychic phenomena exist. But Big Science -- especially as portrayed in prominent newspapers and popular magazines like Scientific American -- says it doesn't.

Well then, is this gorilla in the basketball game, or not? One way to find out is to study the question using the highly effective tools of science while leaving the worldview assumptions behind. That way we can study the question without prejudice, like watching a basketball game without preferring either the white or black team. Neutral observers are much more likely to spot a gorilla, if one is indeed present."

[...]

Hokulele
12th November 2008, 01:04 PM
The problem with the Gorilla clip analogy presented here is that when the gorilla is pointed out to those who were watching the basketball, they can see it quite easily.

Unlike psychic phenomena.

Sefarst
12th November 2008, 01:04 PM
"Because of these blind spots, some common aspects of human experience literally cannot be seen by those who've spent decades embedded within the Western scientific worldview. That worldview, like any set of cultural beliefs inculcated from childhood, acts like the blinders they put on skittish horses to keep them calm. Between the blinders we see with exceptional clarity, but seeing beyond the blinders is not only exceedingly difficult, after a while it's easy to forget that your vision is restricted.

What part of the Western scientific worldview has made me blind to "some common aspects of human experience?" Further, is this to suggest that those who were not brought up in the Western scientific worldview (roughly 2/3 of the human population) would not be blind in such a way?

I'm genuinely curious as to your answers to these questions, especially about what part of my society has made me blind. Did the scientific method make me blind?

fls
12th November 2008, 01:27 PM
What Gorilla?: Why Some Can't See Psychic Phenomena (http://www.realitysandwich.com/what_gorilla)

[...]

"Because of these blind spots, some common aspects of human experience literally cannot be seen by those who've spent decades embedded within the Western scientific worldview. That worldview, like any set of cultural beliefs inculcated from childhood, acts like the blinders they put on skittish horses to keep them calm. Between the blinders we see with exceptional clarity, but seeing beyond the blinders is not only exceedingly difficult, after a while it's easy to forget that your vision is restricted.

An important class of human experience that these blinders exclude is psychic phenomena, those commonly reported spooky experiences, such as telepathy and clairvoyance, that suggest we are deeply interconnected in ways that transcend the ordinary senses and our everyday notions of space and time.

Exclusion of these phenomena creates a Catch 22: Human experiences credibly reported throughout history, across all cultures, and at all educational levels, repeatedly tell us that psychic phenomena exist. But Big Science -- especially as portrayed in prominent newspapers and popular magazines like Scientific American -- says it doesn't.

Well then, is this gorilla in the basketball game, or not? One way to find out is to study the question using the highly effective tools of science while leaving the worldview assumptions behind. That way we can study the question without prejudice, like watching a basketball game without preferring either the white or black team. Neutral observers are much more likely to spot a gorilla, if one is indeed present."

[...]

See? This is the problem. You are actually going to go ahead and pretend that this is not a ridiculously silly argument. How can we possibly take anything you and other believers claim seriously, when you hold this up as an example of your reasoning prowess. I truly think that you are better than this and I am sincerely suggesting that you stop. As I mentioned in the thread about Dean Radin's Entangled Minds, this behaviour seriously erodes any respect you could hope to garner from scientists in related fields.

Linda

Soapy Sam
12th November 2008, 02:55 PM
The difference between a gorilla that is there and a phenomenon that is not...is a gorilla.

Which part of this do you have difficulty with?

cj.23
12th November 2008, 03:57 PM
I know two witnesses to Scole, whom I trust as honest(though of course foolable). I can think of no explanation of what they say they saw, unless they were drugged. Even then, there is a consistency to their accounts inconsistent with hypnotics or hallucinogens.

If you have any hypothesis on the matter I'd be interested to read it.


Hullo! Um... sort of. The really annoying bit is I chickened out. Let me explain.

I have a friend, who I shall call John. I want to preserve his anonymity, because he has spent over fifty years investigating mediums from his first encounter as a boy. I have not seen John for a year or so, but while elderly now (in his seventies) he is mentally alert. John is not a spiritualist, but in his youth he saw a materialisation medium - and was VERY impressed. Since that time he has made a concerted effort to find another "genuine" medium - and while he is not a spiritualist, he believes in the possibility sincerely.

Unfortunately John has been repeatedly disappointed, or was. He was however never going to give up - and he took part in at least two exposes of fraud in the Spiritualist movement, not headline stuff, but damaging to the mediums involved. He is nowadays unutterably cynical - but Scole was actually a bit of a refreshment for him, and he is to this day convinced by what he saw.

In the mid to late 1990's, I was giving a lecture to the newly formed Angliuan Psychic Research Group, and was talking about mediumship. I arranged the venue, and chose The White Hart in Scole, and the "training day" which involved rather a jaundiced take on psychic investigation had just moved in to the afternoon session when I was do to talk about my issues with mediumship, and my research in the area. Some locals asked to join us - and subsequently one of them revealed they were doing some groundbreaking research in the field. They berated me quite rightly for my lack of knowledge of modern work in the area! :)

I was a little embarasssed -- I had simply assumed they were interestd locals likely to take the proverbial, and was now lectured on the history of the Noah's Ark Society, their take on the Lincoln affair, Alexander etc. I did not at the time know of the Scole Research Group -- I am not sure anyone did. They cordially invited me to visit, but while my parents live just twenty miles south, I live on the other side of the country. (For those who do not appreciate the size of this rther embarassing coincindence, Scole is not a major metropolis! It's really a large village in a sleepy part of East anglia :))

A few months, maybe a year later John told me that a new group was doing stiuff in Scole in Norfolk. I laughed and said I had met them. John then said he had been invited to attend a session, and I was also invited. So we set off, and stayed at my parents house. My father took the proverbial mightily, and even though he was used to his son the ghosthunter this was one step too far. On the morning of the session some old school friends asked me to an rpg session (a game, not grenades!) and a bit embarassed after my former experience, John went alone. I bitterly regret this to this day. I'm still not sure what stopped me going -- I had sat in many seances by this point, but I was never very comfortable with it. I felt, I dunno, it's all a bit - well anyway I'm not keen on seances. Still...

John went, and when he returned he was flabbergasted. He had seen lights, small lights which moved around the table in the dark. I suggested those fiber optic filamants, as apparently the lights landed on his hand, and touched his face. John could not confirm or deny this, but agreed it was a possibility. Then he said he had saw something quite remarkable - two lights slowly seemed ot grow, and form the eyes of a figurine, some ten inches I think he said, high. The figurine looked like a little statue of the Virgin - then it was gone, I forget how. I need to ask John about this, when I meet him again.

John returned twice more, and i spoke to a good number of the SPR investigators I think in the period when they were active at Scole. I never set foot in the place, but certainly no one in the village or Norfolkcircles had much idea of what was going on, or felt any reason to dislike the people involved. I expected dirt - I looked for it, as the "energy based" thing made no more sense to me than ectoplasm - it all sounded like rubbish, and i had just finished my major sceptical work on ley lines - which I hope to get published one day - demolishing the concept. Energy? Sorry, when people say "energy" outside of physics I just groan inwardly. Glass domes? Charged crystals?

Now the thing is, I have since read the Scole Report. I can't find John's experience in their, presumably it was one that was not reported on by the SPR team, but I nterviewed him quite brutally some twenty minutes after the session. The ending of the whole thing was - well I am sure you know! Yet John was completely sincere, and nobody's fool. He was deeply annoyed that Light Intensifier gear could not be employed in the sessions, but he has deteted fraud on several occasions under far worse conditions. He is cautious - he thinks the phenomena was probably genuine, but what it was... well he was not convinced in any direction. I asked him carefully about his access, he drew diagrams, he had searched the room prior to the session. He genuinely came to like the people.

What happened at Scole? I don't know. The PSPR Report, which I will happily mail you if you would like to read it, is divided between those convinced and those who think fraud. The researchers struck me as open - but I wa at one point convinced something sinister was afoot - I found Lincoln, aka Colin Fry, had attended a few sessions early on. I immediately was convinced this was very -- well anyway I asked John, who said Colin had met the folks through calling at their house on other business, carpet fitting or something. That si my recollection. John was amused by this, but as Robin Foy and Colin Fry had both been members of the Noahs Ark Society, it seemed a bit coincidental.

There was also some politics between the Noahs Ark Society and the Scole group, the details of which I never was privy to, but they did not seem to get on from what I could see. Still I tried to find out what I could - interviewing folks, chatting to investigators, asking around - but really at the end of the day we are looking at phenomena which took place in the semi-dark, in a small basement. The newspaper apport screams out fake to me - it is a modern faiurly replica with the worng colour nasthead - and I still find it easier to believe people were decived than the claims are true.Yet the Scole group also strike me as VERY open and approachable - they invited investigators, including sceptics, and travelled all over the place including the USA, performing for lack of a better word in "venues" they did not control. I'm genuuinely puzzled. :)

Hope this reply helps Sam. It's not much, but its my honest recollection of the events of about a decade ago. I still am curious as to why I never went, and i think its that old thing about a prophet being without honour in his home country. The idea of anything important and interesting happenning in Scole - well as a Suffolk/Norfolk border lad, I just could not take it sriously. It would have to rain frogs, cats dogs and elvis impersonators for hours in Diss or Brandon would have to be visited by the mother of all motherships before i could really find something this close to home believable!

cj x

Soapy Sam
12th November 2008, 05:55 PM
This accords with the reports I have. The light shows were apparently very impressive. My contacts cannot imagine any way what they saw could have been faked by projection apparatus, but as you say- a darkened basement which may have been well prepared in advance- and as so often, the lack of any significance to any contact- no revelations, no new elements, no explanation of anything previously unknown. My opinion and like you I was not there- is trickery, but of a very advanced kind. I would be very happy to know precisely what kind.
I too understand there was a falling out between some of the participants.

Yes, I'd be interested to read the report you mention. Real mail or email?
I'll PM you my details.

Limbo
12th November 2008, 06:24 PM
My opinion and like you I was not there- is trickery, but of a very advanced kind. I would be very happy to know precisely what kind.


If there is trickery through advanced technology, what did tricksters use to fake light shows in the days before fiber optic filamants? Mysterious lights are very old.

It seems to me that an explanation needs to apply to the past as well as the present, or else it lacks explanatory power.

Jeff Corey
12th November 2008, 06:35 PM
I presented material and asked for comments, which people are providing. And I appreciate it.

I don't see why I have to get involved in dragged out debate about it, it's not necessary and it won't solve anything. I'm interested in gathering responses, not debating material. Just respond to the material if you wish, or ignore it. No one is holding a gun to anyone's head...I'm not forcing to all to comment. Neither will I be bullied into a pointless debate at this time.

Ok, so I guess that you won't respond to me if I state that your use of "cognitive dissonance" shows a misunderstanding of what Festinger meant by it and how he supposedly demonstrated it and the criticisms that other psychologists have made of the construct in the half century or so since.

Mercutio
12th November 2008, 07:23 PM
Not done reading yet--likely will finish it, because it is (what a surprise!) on an area of interest to me. But since I made it that far...

I am quite familiar with James's work, with Munsterberg's, and with Houdini's. Hell, I have multiple folders on each that I use in my classes. I have to say, the characterizations of Munsterberg's and Houdini's attitudes are... spun. (Now that it is a page back, I won't swear to James, because I can't remember the specific adjectives you used. Oh, and have you seen Wundt's writings on the topic? Very level-headed, very polite, and clearly concluding that the seance he had witnessed was much more evidence of a willingness of some sitters to believe than of spirits to believe in.) You call theirs "extreme reactions"; I could not disagree more. If you are that loose in your interpretations of other writers, I will be sad to see. Too bad; I had hoped that someone at the event (which I really wanted to go to!) would be there to offset Rupert Sheldrake.

Oh, it's Martin Gardner, not Martin Gardiner. Minor, but you might want to correct.

I disagree with your blanket description of skeptics, although it is a useful strawman given your thesis.

Your Alcock quote could very easily be interpreted in a vastly different manner than you choose to--that claims telepathy are not "deeply worrying" (as you put it), but simply ludicrous! Your spin is, I think, a very suspicious interpretation. Again, I have this book, so I can check for context.

I agree with Corey--you have misinterpreted Festinger.

I think I'll stop here for now. I have to wonder what your talk would have been like had you run it by knowledgeable skeptics first. Could I ask who you did have review it?

Limbo
12th November 2008, 07:37 PM
I disagree with your blanket description of skeptics, although it is a useful strawman given your thesis.


Just wondering if you disagree with any and all blanket statements, or just those against groups you identify with. I don't know you from Jack so I'm wondering if maybe you're a little more tolerant of, for instance, blanket statements about woo-woos or religious folk. I hope you're not offended by the question.

ImaginalDisc
12th November 2008, 07:48 PM
Just wondering if you disagree with any and all blanket statements, or just those against groups you identify with. I don't know you from Jack so I'm wondering if maybe you're a little more tolerant of, for instance, blanket statements about woo-woos or religious folk.

Let's assume skeptics are all pathologically mean, spiteful people.

Is there any scientific evidence that, for example, ESP exists?

Limbo
12th November 2008, 07:51 PM
Let's assume skeptics are all pathologically mean, spiteful people.

Is there any scientific evidence that, for example, ESP exists?


If there was, would such people be capable of evaluating all of it objectively?

Mercutio
12th November 2008, 08:00 PM
I suppose you could ask around, or check my posting history. Or you could take my word for it, or even ask the people who were moderators while I was on the mod/admin team. I have a strong history of treating individuals as individuals, of trying to put myself in others' shoes, of taking their words in the light most favorable to them. As admin, I instituted a "devil's advocate" position in the mod team to be certain that unpopular opinions were given the best representation we could muster.

If and when an individual demonstrates he or she deserves it, though, I have no qualms arguing against either believers or skeptics. I have disagreed with prominent skeptics, prolific dissenters (many of whom would call themselves skeptics, of course), and even my closest friends here.

I teach my students to question--especially when they hear something they agree with, because that is when we are most vulnerable to confirmation bias. But having questioned and found the best data, they should be prepared to make decisions, and not avoid taking a stance when the evidence demands that they do.

Do I sound like the blanket description of the skeptic as you describe?

Didn't think so.

(And yes, feel free to check my posting history, or to ask around. Too bad Interesting Ian is no longer here, or hammegk, or Freda. We disagreed on most things, so they'd be pretty decent character witnesses.)

tyr_13
12th November 2008, 08:12 PM
If there was, would such people be capable of evaluating all of it objectively?

That isn't the point at all. It does...not...matter.

People were complaining that the media was being mean to Gov. Palin. That didn't make her qualified, or smart. Someone being mean has absolutely nothing to do with them being right.

Most such people, skeptics who only want good evidence to base their conclusions on, would of course be able to evaluate it with a good level of objectivity. If it is what they what; evidence.

Got any reliable evidence?

Limbo
12th November 2008, 08:14 PM
Do I sound like the blanket description of the skeptic as you describe?

Didn't think so.




No you don't and I'm always excited to find exceptions to the rule. The exceptions are the only people that I have any chance of having a civil conversation with.

Limbo
12th November 2008, 08:18 PM
That isn't the point at all. It does...not...matter.

People were complaining that the media was being mean to Gov. Palin. That didn't make her qualified, or smart. Someone being mean has absolutely nothing to do with them being right.

Most such people, skeptics who only want good evidence to base their conclusions on, would of course be able to evaluate it with a good level of objectivity. If it is what they what; evidence.

Got any reliable evidence?


It doesn't matter? Got any reliable evidence of that? :p

I think that the psychological disposition of the skeptic when he/she evaluates evidence of a claim that seems to go against their belief system is important.

Just as it's important when a YEC evaluates evidence that the Earth is older than 6,000 years.

Mercutio
12th November 2008, 08:23 PM
No you don't and I'm always excited to find exceptions to the rule.

I did not get far enough in the paper to find it; could you please tell me what data allow you to call your strawman the rule, and not people like me? My experience is, it seems, quite different from yours; one or both of us could be victims of a heuristic gone bad.

My own experience, admittedly anecdotal, is limited to a few hundred skeptics I have met at conferences, whose papers I have read, and with whom I have interacted.

Your data?

tyr_13
12th November 2008, 08:24 PM
No you don't and I'm always excited to find exceptions to the rule.

You haven't shown it to be a rule. There are a lot of mean skeptics, but there are a lot of mean people. Correlation isn't causation.

How about some more observations on the psychology of skeptics? I've observed that skeptics love to learn. At some point, they were dead wrong about something, and when they found out why and how, they thought, "wow, that's neat. I wonder what other amazing things I can learn like this!" Then along come believes, who also insist that the new skeptic is dead wrong, but don't use reasoning to prove it.

In my experience, skeptics love to be wrong. They love even more to be proven wrong, because then they learn.

There are pathological deniers and just people who hate to be wrong (as often believers as skeptics), yes. But that doesn't cover skeptics well.

Perhaps there should be a thread on the psychology of believers.

tyr_13
12th November 2008, 08:25 PM
It doesn't matter? Got any reliable evidence of that? :p

I think that the psychological disposition of the skeptic when he/she evaluates evidence of a claim that seems to go against their belief system is important.

Just as it's important when a YEC evaluates evidence that the Earth is older than 6,000 years.

You forgot to mention Hitler.

Being mean doesn't change the evidence.

godless dave
12th November 2008, 08:51 PM
Just wondering if you disagree with any and all blanket statements, or just those against groups you identify with.

Personally, I disagree with blanket statements that are inaccurate. "Most Deadheads are stoners" is a blanket statement that isn't very flattering to me, but in my experience it's accurate, so I don't disagree with it.

Ersby
13th November 2008, 02:41 AM
One of the problems I have with the argument that sceptics were wrong when it came to heavier-than-air flight, continental drift and meteorites and therefore is wrong about other stuff too is that it relies on rather a loose definition on what a sceptic is. Sometimes I wonder how the pro-psi camp would react if people started referring to eugenics and phrenology as examples when sceptics were correct, and therefore correct about other stuff too.

It seems to me that people have become distracted by the inclusive nature of parapsychology (inter-connectedness, vague talk about energies, field consciousness) and assume that sceptics are against that rather than against what they see as shoddy science and a waste of resources.

Take faith-healing (an extreme example, but it serves as an illustration). Some people see that as a manifestation of God’s love, and to be against it, you must be against God’s love. Similarly I often get the impression that people think to be against parapsychology, you must be against feelings and empathy and intuition. And to be against psychic mediums, you must be against family love and relationships.

Certainly, before WW2, when pseudoscience was trying it’s best to be divisive (phrenology, physiognomy) the shoe was on the other foot and it was the sceptics who must’ve seemed like the lovely inclusive friendly ones.

Pixel42
13th November 2008, 02:51 AM
In my experience, skeptics love to be wrong. They love even more to be proven wrong, because then they learn.

There are pathological deniers and just people who hate to be wrong (as often believers as skeptics), yes. But that doesn't cover skeptics well
It's the very fact that I really want to believe in ESP, ghosts, UFOs etc that makes me a sceptic, demanding evidence first. I know how easy it would be to fool myself into believing something I want to be true, but isn't. When I was younger I accepted these things without evidence, but I've grown up a bit since then.

Mercutio
13th November 2008, 05:47 AM
One of the problems I have with the argument that sceptics were wrong when it came to heavier-than-air flight, continental drift and meteorites and therefore is wrong about other stuff too is that it relies on rather a loose definition on what a sceptic is. [snip]

Agreed. If people who actually follow the evidence are labeled "exceptions to the rule" and are put in one box, and people who behave as the strawskeptic does are put in another, it should come as no surprise when the skeptics are dogmatically wrong about case after case.

Limbo
13th November 2008, 06:55 AM
My own experience, admittedly anecdotal, is limited to a few hundred skeptics I have met at conferences, whose papers I have read, and with whom I have interacted.

Your data?


I have to go by my own personal experience as a "woo" interacting with many different skeptics on different forums. In my experience skeptics are, generally speaking, more interested in making fun of woo-woos and taking their anger out on them than anything else.

Your experience with your fellow skeptics is as an insider, right? Maybe that makes you blind to their failings. Mine is as an outsider. Perhaps your perspective would be different if you were an outsider trying to interact with them. Then perhaps you would see how quickly they tend resort to things like mockery, sarcasm, etc.

Overall, I would have to say the dominant vibe coming from skeptic communities is hatred.

Ersby
13th November 2008, 07:27 AM
Overall, I would have to say the dominant vibe coming from skeptic communities is hatred.

As someone who’s posted on both skeptic and pro-psi forums, and pretty much given up on all except this one, I think that you’re confusing the skeptic’s bluntness for hatred and the believer’s passive-aggressive thinly-veiled pity as open-mindedness. I’ve often seen a beliver ostensibly take on board my comments, and so in the short term seem very open to new data, but then later they simply restate their old argument to other people, without having changed their views at all. This is, in my opinion, far more frustrating than someone who is sarcastic to me from the start. At least with them I can fight fire with fire.

Let’s not forget that even if the sceptical community is rife with hatred, doesn’t necessarily make it wrong.

You must be careful not to dehumanise your opponent in an attempt at convincing yourself that your own opinion must therefore be the correct one.

ImaginalDisc
13th November 2008, 07:42 AM
If there was, would such people be capable of evaluating all of it objectively?

Present the evidence and you can observe how skeptics react to it if you like. Very scientific. There's a paper in it for you.

Of course, you need the evidence first.

tyr_13
13th November 2008, 07:45 AM
Your experience with your fellow skeptics is as an insider, right? Maybe that makes you blind to their failings.Mine is as an outsider.


Bolding mine.

And you haven't considered that your own perspective might be biased? Maybe that makes you see failings when there are few. Perhaps you take mockery and sarcasm too much to heart, and ignore the well thought out criticisms of your non evidence based beliefs. Also, to imply that you don't hold any bias when it comes to your own beliefs is, silly.

fls
13th November 2008, 08:55 AM
I have to go by my own personal experience as a "woo" interacting with many different skeptics on different forums. In my experience skeptics are, generally speaking, more interested in making fun of woo-woos and taking their anger out on them than anything else.

Your experience with your fellow skeptics is as an insider, right? Maybe that makes you blind to their failings. Mine is as an outsider. Perhaps your perspective would be different if you were an outsider trying to interact with them. Then perhaps you would see how quickly they tend resort to things like mockery, sarcasm, etc.

I see a two-fold reason for this. I think that it could be an expected (not excusable) response when someone is frustrated - especially if someone is already primed to be cynical. That is one of the hazards of talking to 'woos'. When one hears the same nonsensical arguments over and over again, or one asks for the 'best case' for a particular idea and is presented with fairly tortuous reasoning applied to weak evidence, it begins to erode your confidence that there is anything at all to these claims. This doesn't just concern me when it comes to parapsychology. It also bothers me when I see well-intentioned people blogging against homeopathy (for example) with fallacious and poorly-conceived arguments. It worries me that people, upon discovering the fallacious nature of these arguments, will assume that that's all there is to the story and that the case against homeopathy can be easily knocked down. The problem is that woos tend to create these strawmen, without skeptics having to go through the trouble of doing it for them. And it becomes frustrating to discover that some 'woos' think the strawmen can actually serve as a real defense, or when it starts to occur to skeptics that there isn't anything except strawmen. If any of that makes sense.

The second reason is that ridicule and mockery is not a reflection of one's state of mind, but is a deliberately chosen tool. There is an idea that playing nice merely allows people to remain complacent about their beliefs, even those that are ridiculous (I think that is the reasoning behind the approach taken in the movie "Religulous"). To actually get people to take notice requires stronger tactics - a demonstration of some emotion or ridicule. I have not yet decided whether this is a valid approach. Certainly some people come here and say that they were a believer until someone got in their face about it (whether it was Randi or someone else). On the other hand, one cannot deny Robert Lancaster's success, either. I suspect it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. And even though I feel much less comfortable when I try to get in someone's face (and so I would be inclined to dismiss it as a useful approach :)), I cannot claim to know that it is not useful.

Overall, I would have to say the dominant vibe coming from skeptic communities is hatred.

That is very disturbing to hear.

Linda

Mercutio
13th November 2008, 08:57 AM
I have to go by my own personal experience as a "woo" interacting with many different skeptics on different forums. In my experience skeptics are, generally speaking, more interested in making fun of woo-woos and taking their anger out on them than anything else.

Your experience with your fellow skeptics is as an insider, right? Maybe that makes you blind to their failings. Mine is as an outsider. Perhaps your perspective would be different if you were an outsider trying to interact with them. Then perhaps you would see how quickly they tend resort to things like mockery, sarcasm, etc.

Overall, I would have to say the dominant vibe coming from skeptic communities is hatred.In addition to the comments by Ersby and tyr_13 (with which I find myself in agreement), I am compelled to observe that your own "rule" which I am an exception to is based on the flimsiest of evidence. I honestly was expecting something more--perhaps a content analysis of a representative sampling of posts--and a more appropriate analysis (as tyr_13 points out in an earlier comment, you would need to demonstrate that skeptics are meaner than the average internet poster, even if we were to take your data as representative; you have not taken adequate samples to do that--or at least, given a request to supply your data, you have not supplied any).

This is especially disconcerting given the strict self-imposed methodological rigor claimed by parapsychologists; because of their subject area, it is imperative that they construct well-controlled studies (as per the publication guidelines in the American Journal of Parapsychology--papers are accepted based not on results, but on methodology). A "standard" that is pulled out of thin air, then defended by dismissing counterexamples as "exceptions to the rule" is simply shoddy methodology. Worse, it is consistent with the interpretation of Munsterberg and Houdini that I mentioned before--it appears that you are seeking out confirming cases and dismissing disconfirming cases, and this is not up to the standards of either skeptical or believer peer-reviewed journals.

ImaginalDisc
13th November 2008, 09:09 AM
Overall, I would have to say the dominant vibe coming from skeptic communities is hatred.

People who hate their fellow man do not spend their free time debunking quack medicine and other magical panaceas. Every day wasted getting "alternative" cures is a day a person's disease gets worse. If anything, the people who lie about being able to contact the dead, solve financial problems, and cure disease, but who have no ability to do so are full of hate - or at least an utter lack of compassion for the suffering of others.

Beth
13th November 2008, 09:54 AM
Overall, I would have to say the dominant vibe coming from skeptic communities is hatred.

That is very disturbing to hear.

Linda

I will support Limbo in this assessment of the dominate vibe from skeptic communities. That has been my experience with various on-line skeptic communities. However, I disagree that this is the 'rule'. A 'vibe' or impression can be created by a minority. I think most skeptics are no more hateful towards those who do not share their believe system that, for example, creationists are towards those who do not share their believe system. Rather, those who are hateful towards others are the people who make the largest impression. The majority of both groups that I have met, both on-line and IRL are respectful towards others regardless of the beliefs they may hold on various topics.

Mercutio
13th November 2008, 10:29 AM
I will support Limbo in this assessment of the dominate vibe from skeptic communities. That has been my experience with various on-line skeptic communities. However, I disagree that this is the 'rule'. A 'vibe' or impression can be created by a minority. I think most skeptics are no more hateful towards those who do not share their believe system that, for example, creationists are towards those who do not share their believe system. Rather, those who are hateful towards others are the people who make the largest impression. The majority of both groups that I have met, both on-line and IRL are respectful towards others regardless of the beliefs they may hold on various topics.

Thank you for expressing this so well; this is part of what I was after when I suggested a content analysis. It is incredibly easy for an overall impression to be based on very little actual information (the literature on person perception is full of examples!), while a claimed "rule" in a formal paper or presentation really ought to be based on data.

blutoski
13th November 2008, 03:06 PM
One should almost ask them not to give examples. :)

Here is the paper that is referred to in the quotes:

http://www.pnas.org/content/95/5/2670.full

Other examples include the work of Masaru Emoto.

Dean Radin suggests that the research by Daniel Simons using the famous gorilla clip (http://www.uni-mannheim.de/fakul/psycho/irtel/lehre/seminar-wahr/Simons_Chabris_Gorillas_in_our_midst_1999.pdf) accounts for knowledgeable scientists' lack of belief.

Yet it never seems to occur to them that asking us to accept such patently ridiculous 'evidence' for their argument serves only to weaken their point (that lack of acceptance is based on prejudice) and support our point (that acceptance corresponds to evidence).

Linda

What's really sad about it is that the gorilla video is an example in applied skepticism, rather than applied psi research. Basically, it's the reason we don't trust eyewitness reports without better-quality corroborating documentation.

Just because a bunch of people saw a ghost does not mean that's what actually happened.

More specifically, just because people didn't see Gellar pass the key to Shipi so that Shipi could bend it out of sight, doesn't mean Gellar has incredible powers.

If the researcher is not looking for the cheating, he doesn't see the cheating. Even when it's blatant. That's the point of the video.

And the overarching sadness about this thread is not just that the psi researchers appear to have abandoned the quest for better data in exchange for a call for reframing the problem as "scientists are headcases" (ah, but isn't distraction a magician's trick after all?).

No: the saddest part about it is that I think many are sincere that they think psychology only applies to skeptics. Maybe they just discovered the scientifically-accepted concepts of investment, cognitive dissonance, and tunnelvision. But here's the sad part: for some reason, it hasn't occured to them to do some self-examination and see if some of this could explain their plight. Compare to science, where these are assumed to be true, therefore the entire basis for experimental controls and submission of results to peer review by knowledgeable critics.

So, the original poster was asking for some feedback, and my response was a bit reserved, because it's hard to believe that a grownup would think that cognitive dissonance could be a factor for only one viewpoint. Obviously, it applies to everybody in the world, and whenever there's a complicated dispute you'll find it in spades on both sides. This is what skeptics assume going into an investigation. The purpose of experimental design is to structure an investigation so that the opinions of the participants do not influence the results.



Just as an example of how long cognitive dissonance/investment/confirmation bias has been a keystone in skeptical literature for generations, I recall a sad case of an homeopath who was willing to test his decision to diagnose through applied kinesiology. When using the scientific standard of double-blinding with placebo control, it didn't work. His conclusion: double-blinding with placebo controls is obviously crap because it doesn't show that AK works. This was from the early 1970s CSICOP.

Point is: did psi researchers really just discover this stuff? OK, if so: what efforts have been undertaken to educate their peers about these concerns, to ensure they mitigate them in their experimental design?

blutoski
13th November 2008, 03:19 PM
It doesn't matter? Got any reliable evidence of that? :p

I think that the psychological disposition of the skeptic when he/she evaluates evidence of a claim that seems to go against their belief system is important.

Just as it's important when a YEC evaluates evidence that the Earth is older than 6,000 years.

Which is, I think, the point. The YEC's blinders are sad, but they don't affect my evaluation of the evidence.

The fact that there are some wacky skeptics out there doesn't affect other skeptics' evaluation of the evidence.

Mental blinders affect all aspects of our existence, regardless of which 'side' a person takes in a debate. It is not a surprise to skeptics that they have these mental blinders - we're the guys who talk about logical fallacies all day. The overarching assumption is that we have these human failings, and that it's important to adhere to a system instead of our instincts on questions about the nature of things. Thus the advocacy of scientific approaches whenever possible.

godless dave
13th November 2008, 05:05 PM
I consider sarcasm and mockery to be appropriate responses to dishonesty and gullibility.

I do admit to holding some contempt for gullible people who don't think critically, and I know in many cases it isn't really fair. I had the advantages of a very good school district where critical thinking was encouraged, and most of all, having parents who demanded their children think critically. Many people did not have those advantages, and some were actively discouraged from critical thinking.

blutoski
13th November 2008, 05:15 PM
One of the problems I have with the argument that sceptics were wrong when it came to heavier-than-air flight, continental drift and meteorites and therefore is wrong about other stuff too is that it relies on rather a loose definition on what a sceptic is. Sometimes I wonder how the pro-psi camp would react if people started referring to eugenics and phrenology as examples when sceptics were correct, and therefore correct about other stuff too.

The lack of a solid definition of skeptic causes problems when skeptics perform self-analysis. Would we include, say, homeopaths, since they're skeptical of science or medicine?

It's a real pill.




It seems to me that people have become distracted by the inclusive nature of parapsychology (inter-connectedness, vague talk about energies, field consciousness) and assume that sceptics are against that rather than against what they see as shoddy science and a waste of resources.

Take faith-healing (an extreme example, but it serves as an illustration). Some people see that as a manifestation of God’s love, and to be against it, you must be against God’s love. Similarly I often get the impression that people think to be against parapsychology, you must be against feelings and empathy and intuition. And to be against psychic mediums, you must be against family love and relationships.

Certainly, before WW2, when pseudoscience was trying it’s best to be divisive (phrenology, physiognomy) the shoe was on the other foot and it was the sceptics who must’ve seemed like the lovely inclusive friendly ones.

Mm. Indeed. The problem is that it's paying (imo too much) attention to Rhetoric, rather than openly debating the issues themselves.

If there's one thing that *can* be said about skeptics, it's that we're not too concerned about appearances. As a consequence, skeptics are a popular target.



Personally, I'm interested in the psychological composition of skepticism, but investigations suffer from the boundary problem (who is a 'skeptic' for the sake of the investigation) and also from access to skeptics in general. Many are simply not connected to organized skepticism, so there is an overwhelming selection bias in any survey that depends on self-identification.

I would not, for example, consider this forum to be a good sample of skeptics, although it may be a good source for skeptics.

I think I'm staying on thread topic by sharing my thoughts on skeptical psychology, but I'm willing to start a different thread. (I have noticed that my threads ask uncomfortable questions and quickly die.)

Ersby
14th November 2008, 12:42 AM
The term “skeptic” is, it seems to me, both derided and desired by the pro-psi community. They are quick to demonise and belittle the term yet also try to use the name themselves, in sites like Skeptical Inquiry or Skeptiko.

JihadJane
14th November 2008, 01:23 AM
Finding it hard to believe that other people were not deceived is nothing but an appeal to ignorance.

"I can't believe it's not butter". Well, it isn't.

If a medium is caught cheating once, why on Earth should she get the benefit of the doubt from then on? Instead, it should be emphasized that if she cheated once, there is even more reason to believe that she cheated since then, especially in those cases where it is hard to tell if she was.

James Randi has been caught cheating as in lying (see Rupert Sheldrake, psychic dog experiment). Why is he still given the benefit of the doubt?

cj.23
14th November 2008, 01:45 AM
James Randi has been caught cheating as in lying (see Rupert Sheldrake, psychic dog experiment). Why is he still given the benefit of the doubt?


Or making an honest mistake perhaps? I have no ide what you are on about, but considering how gracious Mr Randi was when I once emailed him mistakenly criticising something he had written, and then it turned out he had written no such thing -- hell I was embarassed - and his general willingness to be entirely reasonable -- I would be surprised if this was so. He strikes me as a having a dry sense of humour, and a lot of personal integrity - and hell I'm a ghosthunter, quite nototious for it. CAught the affliction in my teens and never recovered. :)

If you have evidence of willful deliberate misrepresentation by Mr Randi on Sheldrake or anything else do start a new thread to discuss it though. My experience suggests Mr Randi makes mistakes, which being human I am not surprised by, and acknowledges them cheerfully. I think if we could all do that it would be a better place, but I'm curious ot hear the details.

cj x

blutoski
14th November 2008, 09:05 AM
James Randi has been caught cheating as in lying (see Rupert Sheldrake, psychic dog experiment). Why is he still given the benefit of the doubt?

You'lll have to be more specific. A reference would be nice, so we could talk about it. Otherwise, it's just sticks and stones.

Also: was it a deliberate lie to beguile and mislead readers, or an honest error? I don't hold honest errors against anybody, especially if they return to them in an errata. Happens all the time.

Or was it a difference of opinion? I remember Sheldrake accusing Randi of 'lying' about his research "not being replicated". But this is because they have a difference of opinion about what counts as replication. And since scientists share Randi's interpretation, I don't regard this as an actual lie on Randi's part. Just pitifulness on Sheldrake's.

blutoski
14th November 2008, 09:07 AM
Why is he still given the benefit of the doubt?

To answer the second question: because everything I've read of his is independently verifiable by neutral sources, so he appears to put his money where his mouth is, and has a reputation for reliability.

JihadJane
14th November 2008, 10:56 AM
A reference would be nice...

Sorry for the lack of reference. I'd assumed that the psychic dog controversy would be common knowledge. It was one of the first bits of information I came across when I did a bit of google research into who James Randi is when I joined this forum. I'd previously only vaguely heard of him. Blutoski's and cj.23's (and others?) ignorance of this controversy suggests they haven't applied their skeptical curiosity to the Master ;). Interestingly, one of the the episodes that Sheldrake relates is very similar to those described in the OP (apparently inaccurately) in the Edison and the Wright brothers examples:

"Randi also claimed to have debunked one of my experiments with the dog Jaytee, a part of which was shown on television. Jaytee went to the window to wait for his owner when she set off to come home, but did not do so before she set off. In Dog World, Randi stated: 'Viewing the entire tape, we see that the dog responded to every car that drove by, and to every person who walked by.' This is simply not true, and Randi now admits that he has never seen the tape."

http://www.sheldrake.org/D&C/controversies/randi.html

I'd like to echo Limbo's comment:


Overall, I would have to say the dominant vibe coming from skeptic communities is hatred.

though my experience of "debunkers" online has been less of hatred than of weirdly juvenile and condescending bullying. Most of my posting experience has been on a general political discussion forum (commentisfree) where there are heated debates on many topics. The especially petty nastiness of "debunkers" attracted to debates there on the paranormal, homeopathy, 911 skepticism and global warming is outstanding.

My experience on JREF has confirmed my suspicion that a certain domineering personality type is attracted to the easy emotional rewards of debunking. As a poster above observes these playground bullies could be just a noisy minority but that is not my impression. Few debunkers seem to be able able to restrain their need to aggressively assert their supposed psychological superiority and dominance. It has led me to surmise that they feel inferior in some way and are compensating. Their often juvenile approach to difference suggests to me that their emotional drive to debunk could be rooted in authoritarian child-rearing practices.

The OP is interesting but mostly anecdotal. It would be more interesting to see a large sample of skeptics and their victims submitted to some personality tests. Perhaps this has already been done?

tyr_13
14th November 2008, 11:02 AM
The victims of skeptics? Wow...just, wow...

Confirmation bias much?

Moochie
14th November 2008, 11:18 AM
Sorry for the lack of reference. I'd assumed that the psychic dog controversy would be common knowledge. It was one of the first bits of information I came across when I did a bit of google research into who James Randi is when I joined this forum. I'd previously only vaguely heard of him. Blutoski's and cj.23's (and others?) ignorance of this controversy suggests they haven't applied their skeptical curiosity to the Master ;). Interestingly, one of the the episodes that Sheldrake relates is very similar to those described in the OP (apparently inaccurately) in the Edison and the Wright brothers examples:

"Randi also claimed to have debunked one of my experiments with the dog Jaytee, a part of which was shown on television. Jaytee went to the window to wait for his owner when she set off to come home, but did not do so before she set off. In Dog World, Randi stated: 'Viewing the entire tape, we see that the dog responded to every car that drove by, and to every person who walked by.' This is simply not true, and Randi now admits that he has never seen the tape."

http://www.sheldrake.org/D&C/controversies/randi.html

I'd like to echo Limbo's comment:


though my experience of "debunkers" online has been less of hatred than of weirdly juvenile and condescending bullying. Most of my posting experience has been on a general political discussion forum (commentisfree) where there are heated debates on many topics. The especially petty nastiness of "debunkers" attracted to debates there on the paranormal, homeopathy, 911 skepticism and global warming is outstanding.

My experience on JREF has confirmed my suspicion that a certain domineering personality type is attracted to the easy emotional rewards of debunking. As a poster above observes these playground bullies could be just a noisy minority but that is not my impression. Few debunkers seem to be able able to restrain their need to aggressively assert their supposed psychological superiority and dominance. It has led me to surmise that they feel inferior in some way and are compensating. Their often juvenile approach to difference suggests to me that their emotional drive to debunk could be rooted in authoritarian child-rearing practices.

The OP is interesting but mostly anecdotal. It would be more interesting to see a large sample of skeptics and their victims submitted to some personality tests. Perhaps this has already been done?


Much waffle and a bit of psychobabble.

Here, evidence rules. You know, that stuff that you can't make up.


M.

ETA: I apologize for quoting the entire post; it seems apropos.

tyr_13
14th November 2008, 11:21 AM
Funny, I just googled James Randi, and nothing about this 'controversy' came up. Also, Rupert's accusation has no link, no supporting quote, and in general, no evidence backing it. He just says it happened. Even if it had, oh no! Randi's human!

Of course the critisim of Rupert Sheldrake and his is work is far from limited to 'Master' Randi and 'skeptics', but includes mainstream scientists. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert_Sheldrake Maybe you should look in places besides Mr. Sheldrake's own website for information?

More on Randi and how he relates to Sheldrake's work is about half way down this page. http://www.randi.org/jr/2006-09/09806guess.html

Although it is really funny that here, http://www.skeptiko.com/blog/?p=13 , Sheldrake tries to make out like Randi is doing something wrong while Sheldrake keeps posturing.

You have trouble with the, "certain domineering personality type is attracted to the easy emotional rewards of debunking," that makes very little difference in the end. I have trouble with the tendency of believers to desire absolute truth, blame others for problems, and in general simply not accept responsibility for their own lives. They want patterns or 'truths' to be in control so that they cannot be held responsible for what happens in their lives, or that others are to blame. They don't want hard choices, and are all to willing to give control to those who want to control them. That doesn't change evidence.

Talk about what personalities are attracted to skepticism all you want, it doesn't change the evidence.

Who says we give Randi the benefit of the doupt? He just happens to back what he is saying up. If that changed, people besides the 'victims' of 'Master Randi' would point that out and back it up.

Soapy Sam
14th November 2008, 11:31 AM
If there is trickery through advanced technology, what did tricksters use to fake light shows in the days before fiber optic filamants? Mysterious lights are very old.

It seems to me that an explanation needs to apply to the past as well as the present, or else it lacks explanatory power.

Why?

WE now have perfectly natural explanations of natural light phenomena which would certainly apply to similar phenomena in the past- Lightning, St.Elmo's Fire, The Aurora, etc.

Some light phenomena we have suggested explanations for- piezoelectric / triboluminescent effects in tectonically stressed minerals for example would seem not implausible. Time will tell.

But we are not discussing meteorological phenomena whose causes may be presumed to have been the same in 1000AD as in 2000AD.



No explanation available to 19th century science would explain a laser lightshow, because lasers did not exist at the time. Likewise, one cannot use lasers to explain light that burned holes through metal in 1840.
(None are reported to have done so.)

The descriptions I have of the lights seen at Scole are highly specific and are (to my mind suspiciously) similar to special effects used in Pixar type movies.
There are cultural and iconic features which I have never encountered in descriptions of earlier light apparitions. Like the hairstyles of the Cottingley Fairies, they are oddly..fashionable. When an object is described as looking like a spaceship from a movie, it seems more probable that art is imitating art than that the moviemakers copied their designs from a real paranormal phenomenon. Perhaps you would feel differently about that.

This - and the knowledge that at least one unfrocked charlatan was associated with Scole, (though not a member of the Scole Research Group itself), inclines me to suspect trickery, possibly performed by an outsider.
I freely state that I do not know how such trickery might have been done, but that in itself is meaningless: I have been flummoxed by close up magic performed by professional conjurors. How they did it is for them to know and for me to work out.
In any case, I did not mention advanced technology. I mentioned advanced trickery. The most astonishing stage magic effects are often done using very simple methods.

JihadJane
14th November 2008, 01:08 PM
The victims of skeptics? Wow...just, wow...

Confirmation bias much?

I use the word deliberately because skeptics appear to in permanent attack mode, presumeably because they feel threatened. I’m not sure by what. Perhaps some of the possibilities suggested in the OP are accurate.

Much waffle and a bit of psychobabble.

Here, evidence rules. You know, that stuff that you can't make up.


M.

ETA: I apologize for quoting the entire post; it seems apropos.

I am simply sharing my impressions and suggesting that more research would be interesting.

Impressions are inherently subjective.


Funny, I just googled James Randi, and nothing about this 'controversy' came up.

Perhaps you need to be a little more imaginative with your search criteria.

Also, Rupert's accusation has no link, no supporting quote, and in general, no evidence backing it. He just says it happened. Even if it had, oh no! Randi's human!

Randi has proved fond of litigation in other areas so I'm sure he would challenge Sheldrake's statement if it weren't true. I also doubt that Sheldrake, a scientist, would published easily discredited lies on his website.

Yes Randi's human and he lied. That's all I was saying - in response to someone saying that someone who cheats once shouldn't be given the benefit of the doubt.

Of course the critisim of Rupert Sheldrake and his is work is far from limited to 'Master' Randi and 'skeptics', but includes mainstream scientists. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert_Sheldrake Maybe you should look in places besides Mr. Sheldrake's own website for information?

More on Randi and how he relates to Sheldrake's work is about half way down this page. http://www.randi.org/jr/2006-09/09806guess.html

Although it is really funny that here, http://www.skeptiko.com/blog/?p=13 , Sheldrake tries to make out like Randi is doing something wrong while Sheldrake keeps posturing.

I posted about Sheldrake's criticism of Randi's "work" not Randi's criticism of Sheldrake's work.

You have trouble with the, "certain domineering personality type is attracted to the easy emotional rewards of debunking," that makes very little difference in the end.

Where did I say I had trouble with them? It was an observation. I am interested to know what's behind "debunkers'" online behaviour.

I have trouble with the tendency of believers to desire absolute truth, blame others for problems, and in general simply not accept responsibility for their own lives. They want patterns or 'truths' to be in control so that they cannot be held responsible for what happens in their lives, or that others are to blame. They don't want hard choices, and are all to willing to give control to those who want to control them. That doesn't change evidence.

What's that got to do with the psycholgy of skeptics?

Talk about what personalities are attracted to skepticism all you want, it doesn't change the evidence.

Evidence of what? I was discussing the psychology of skeptics.

Who says we give Randi the benefit of the doupt? He just happens to back what he is saying up. If that changed, people besides the 'victims' of 'Master Randi' would point that out and back it up.

A poster suggested people who cheat should not be given "the benefit of the doubt".

Mashuna
14th November 2008, 01:12 PM
I also doubt that Sheldrake, a scientist, would published easily discredited lies on his website.


Why would you doubt this?

tyr_13
14th November 2008, 01:18 PM
You have still not shown that Randi lied. Your theory is that Randi sues people, therefore, if a man lied about Randi, he would have been sued. Because he has not been sued, he must not be lying. Also being wrong does not equal lying.

Maybe 'debunkers' are in perpetual 'attack mode' in order to get people to listen and change.

"Perhaps you need to be a little more imaginative with your search criteria." So I should type in 'James Randi is a lair' or, 'James Randi sucks' to get it?

I was pointing out all the other people who have been critical of the psychic dog guy to show how your assertion that skeptics don't apply skepticism to James Randi is off base. Other people back it up with reasoning.

My observation is that if you think 'debunkers' are, "weirdly juvenile and condescending bullying," than you have not spent much time on the internet.

shuttlt
14th November 2008, 01:41 PM
I'd assumed that the psychic dog controversy would be common knowledge.

I had heard about it, and would be surprised if it wasn't fairly well known on the forum.

On the subject of hatred, you might want to take a look at the following thread:

http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=128787

Another interesting link on this topic is:
http://www.csicop.org/si/2004-05/new-age.html
Where Karla McLaren, an ex-New Age believer talks about exactly the kind of rudeness that I think you refer to.

One of the things that has struck me reading about mobile phones causing cancer (where my interest began), homeopathy, cancer cures, psychics, proof of the Bible etc... is the mind numbing sameness of it all. The specifics of the science change, but the core argument feels, at least to me, to be the same every time. If people don't always seem willing to give a believer a decent hearing, I suspect it is often because this is far from the first time they've heard what the believer has to say. For myself, I am often drawn back by the fantasy that these threads can resolve themselves in anything other than stale mate. I hear it happens, but I have yet to see it.

The hatred on this forum tends to be reserved from people who appear to be making money from, or causing harm through their promotion of things that we believe are either useless or harmful. Pity, boredom or at worst irritation would be the worst I'd say about the way regular believers are normally treated.

cj.23
14th November 2008, 03:14 PM
Sorry for the lack of reference. I'd assumed that the psychic dog controversy would be common knowledge. It was one of the first bits of information I came across when I did a bit of google research into who James Randi is when I joined this forum. I'd previously only vaguely heard of him. Blutoski's and cj.23's (and others?) ignorance of this controversy suggests they haven't applied their skeptical curiosity to the Master ;).


JihadJane, I work in the field of parapsychology, and will cheerfully ask Sheldrake about it -- I recall the dog/pet owner research, and have myself participated in some of Sheldrake's research in a very minor way. I just can't recall James Randi being involved, but I think your notion that I am a follower of the "master" might surprise James Randi, and rather a lot of posters on thsi forum! I just felt it out of character for what I know of James Randi - not much, but I have friends in common and he has always struck me as a an intelligent, astute and honest observer - if combatitive and perhaps at times curmudgeonly! I rarely impart anything but the best intent to my opponents, and I still think Mr Randi would have been entirely sincere in whatever critique he made -- wrong, possibly, but sincere.

I just don't see this as a "party political" issue. I'll go have a look, and if I am completely wrong will apologize! I think Limbo can assure you however that I am hardly an a priori sceptic. :)
cj x

blutoski
14th November 2008, 03:46 PM
Sorry for the lack of reference. I'd assumed that the psychic dog controversy would be common knowledge. It was one of the first bits of information I came across when I did a bit of google research into who James Randi is when I joined this forum. I'd previously only vaguely heard of him. Blutoski's and cj.23's (and others?) ignorance of this controversy suggests they haven't applied their skeptical curiosity to the Master ;). Interestingly, one of the the episodes that Sheldrake relates is very similar to those described in the OP (apparently inaccurately) in the Edison and the Wright brothers examples:

I'm not 'ignorant of the controversy'... you were vague and I had no idea what you were talking about.




"Randi also claimed to have debunked one of my experiments with the dog Jaytee, a part of which was shown on television. Jaytee went to the window to wait for his owner when she set off to come home, but did not do so before she set off. In Dog World, Randi stated: 'Viewing the entire tape, we see that the dog responded to every car that drove by, and to every person who walked by.' This is simply not true, and Randi now admits that he has never seen the tape."

http://www.sheldrake.org/D&C/controversies/randi.html

Well, two things... if it's true, then we need more information to determine if this was a lie or an error on Randi's part. I haven't seen evidence specifically about a lie. Secondly, if it's not true, then is Sheldrake lying or in error?

Out of curiosity, how did you determine which story is true? (keeping in mind that you are very upset at Skeptics for 'just accepting x's word for it.')

One of the reasons that skeptics aren't as obsessed with this as psi people is that we're focusing on the central claim's validity, rather than the ancillary theatrics.

Limbo
14th November 2008, 03:55 PM
I think Limbo can assure you however that I am hardly an a priori sceptic. :)
cj x


Yes I can cheerfully do that CJ my friend!

I believe Sheldrake touches on this whole dog and Randi thing in this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnA8GUtXpXY

blutoski
14th November 2008, 03:55 PM
Yes Randi's human and he lied. That's all I was saying - in response to someone saying that someone who cheats once shouldn't be given the benefit of the doubt.

I would suggest that demonstrating that Randi lied on TV (again: this remains to be proven) is not at all related to giving experimenters the benefit of the doubt involving claims that appear to defy the laws of physics. Parsimony is contextual. Extrordinary claims require extrordinary evidence.

To put this into a scientific context, science has had its share of fraud. The participants' careers are ruined, specifically because they cannot be trusted ongoing.

Why should PSI work differently if they want to be considered a science?

Are you saying that PSI research should work like a TV show?

blutoski
14th November 2008, 04:40 PM
I just can't recall James Randi being involved

The example was just JR espousing about the footage on a television show. He wasn't directly involved in Sheldrake's experiment.



, but I think your notion that I am a follower of the "master" might surprise James Randi, and rather a lot of posters on thsi forum! I just felt it out of character for what I know of James Randi - not much, but I have friends in common and he has always struck me as a an intelligent, astute and honest observer - if combatitive and perhaps at times curmudgeonly! I rarely impart anything but the best intent to my opponents, and I still think Mr Randi would have been entirely sincere in whatever critique he made -- wrong, possibly, but sincere.

That's my guess at this point. He's, what, 80? Getting his footage films mixed up, and Sheldrake's fanboys making a federal case out of it. It's sad if the best they can do is exploit senescence.

I recall a few years ago when Atkins died and some skeptics made a big deal out of the fact that he was technically overweight. I consider it a low blow whether it's a skeptic or woo.




I just don't see this as a "party political" issue. I'll go have a look, and if I am completely wrong will apologize! I think Limbo can assure you however that I am hardly an a priori sceptic. :)
cj x

According to my first wife "everything's political." I am disappointed to see the psi people openly advocating for polemics and soap operas over improving research quality.

blutoski
14th November 2008, 05:06 PM
To put this into a scientific context, science has had its share of fraud. The participants' careers are ruined, specifically because they cannot be trusted ongoing.

Why should PSI work differently if they want to be considered a science?

Further to this, there is also an effort made within the scientific community to distinguish between fraud, incompetence, versus honest mistake. It's the first two situations that ruin careers, but the third shouldn't.

A case in point is that I'm very disappointed with Duesberg's HIV/AIDS proclaimations, but I try not to let that cloud my evaluation of his recent ideas about cancer. He could be right, and I'm not going to let that poison an opportunity to pursue a new direction in cancer detection and treatment.

But a big distinction is that his ideas - while unusual - are entirely plausible, and he has provided good evidence corroborated by others who, like me, think he's misguided, if sincere.

Limbo
14th November 2008, 05:09 PM
Science versus Opinion on the Paranormal (http://www.paradigm-sys.com/ctt_articles2.cfm?id=26)

Article

Evidence vs Opinion on the Paranormal:

Jim Balter, arguing against Sue Pockett's pleas for open-minded consideration of the relevance of parapsychological data to consciousness studies, states:

"It takes a closed mind to tacitly assume that those who reject the parapsychological have not evaluated the evidence."

May I add a reality note from actual personal experience?

I have devoted a significant part of my 30+ years career to studying the scientific (not the popular) literature on parapsychology and actually carrying out some studies of psychic abilities in my own laboratory. When I first got interested in this field I (naively) assumed that intelligent people, *especially scientists*, read thoroughly in the relevant scientific literature of published experiments before reaching a conclusion about the reality or lack of it of various ostensible psi abilities. I'm sorry to say that out of the several dozens of people who are strongly critical of parapsychological studies that I have read the writings of and/or met, I can only think of one who has read even a small fraction of the relevant experimental literature, and that one has a very poor track record of persistently repeating factual mistakes in his arguments that he has been corrected on and acknowledged (at the time).

I'm not in favor of irrational belief, but irrational disbelief is just as bad, especially when such people present themselves as scientists. I might think that quantum physics is pretty crazy, e.g., but if I voice an opinion to that effect I'll make it clear that it's my uninformed, layman's personal opinion, not my opinion as a scientist who has studied and comprehended the relevant data.

So if any of you want to have a strong opinion that there's nothing in parapsychological studies we need be concerned with, and you state it as your *personal* opinion, I have no quarrel with you. But if you want us to believe this is the informed opinion of a scientist (or philosopher or rational person), kindly go out and read and study the experimental literature first. You have about 1500 articles to read.

I don't have time for a long discussion of this, but (my personal opinion), after 30+ years, I really am weary of the least informed making the most noises.

Perhaps Balter is an exception to my experience and has studied this experimental literature in detail and found specific, plausible flaws: if so, he should be publishing detailed articles in the parapsychological literature so that experimenters can correct any such problems. I don't recall seeing any such articles.

I am preparing further articles on the relevance of parapsychological findings to the study of consciousness and in due time will present a systematic and detailed exposition of this material.

Charley Tart

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JihadJane
14th November 2008, 05:14 PM
Thanks for the various responses and the links, shuttlt. I aim to respond fully soon. I was reading the ""This is what you believe" post and thread ( http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=128787 ) last night. I composed but didn't post this response:

I hope this isn't considered off-topic but I wanted to add that this tendency ["This is what you believe" arguments] isn't limited to God debates. In the "Conspiracy Theories" section I am frequently told what I believe, am informed about what are the real workings of my inner mind and about what I am really thinking. It has been a surprise to me to discover how many "debunkers" rely on 'Remote Viewing' to guide them through life!

I consider myself a skeptic though, in the subject area where I have most frontline experience, terrorism, my skepticism falls on the wrong side of JREF skepticism so that it sometimes appears to me that skeptics are, indeed, as someone above says about magicians, as easily duped as whatever non-skeptics are called ("twoofers", and variants thereof, in my case!).

Best wishes.

cj.23
14th November 2008, 05:23 PM
Hi Limbo!

I'm guessing the one was Ray Hyman? I think you could add several more these days - many more actually, and even then Jessica Utts was a prime candidate - though she 'converted' to belief in psi as I recall?

Blutoski, I think the experiments were shown on British TV back in about 1996. I may well be totally wrong. I have no idea about what happened, but asking Randi seems the best way forward, and I'll drop an email to Rupert Sheldrake if we don't already have his side of things? I'm afraid i know almost nothing about the research in question. just remeber a brief TV bit on a news show or something but I'll have a look through the parapsi lit database tomorrow and se if i can find it. Anyone help? I don't think we have to assume senility or forgetfulnmess. Randi seemed as sharp as ever last few things I saw from him on here in the commentary! :)

cj x
cj x

Jeff Corey
14th November 2008, 06:15 PM
...I consider myself a skeptic though, in the subject area where I have most frontline experience, terrorism,
That scares me. I hope you don't get your paycheck out of my taxes. Having you actually have "frontline experience with terrorism" makes me hope you are checking airline passengers' toothpaste for C4. With a dog with an IQ testably higher than yours.

... my skepticism falls on the wrong side of JREF skepticism so that it sometimes appears to me that skeptics are, indeed, as someone above says about magicians, as easily duped as whatever non-skeptics are called ("twoofers", and variants thereof, in my case!)...

You are right about that. Your bogus skeptism devolves into incoherent babble.

blutoski
14th November 2008, 07:30 PM
So if any of you want to have a strong opinion that there's nothing in parapsychological studies we need be concerned with, and you state it as your *personal* opinion, I have no quarrel with you. But if you want us to believe this is the informed opinion of a scientist (or philosopher or rational person), kindly go out and read and study the experimental literature first. You have about 1500 articles to read.

Those are unreasonable expectations for any field. People are allowed to have opinions on subjects where they have read the necessary literature, rather than the entire body of literature.

In science, we have the Cochrane Collaboration, which conducts literature reviews so others don't have to. There are also medical associations and colleges to identify expertise and allocate resources to these concerns so that their membership don't have to waste time performing redundant actions. Skeptics have organizations like JREF and CSI to do the heavy lifting in relevant subject matter.

On an individual basis, the good news is that much work can be done by asking advocates to merely present their best cases for examination. If they are found weak, then it's reasonable to believe - based on the judgement of the advocates themselves - that the remaining cases are even less convincing.

Such is the state of skepticism and psi.

Mercutio
14th November 2008, 08:01 PM
It would be an interesting exercise, to ascertain how much of the parapsychology literature has been read by each contributer to, say, the recent American Journal of Parapsychology, or European Journal of Parapsychology.

I'd wager I have the average author beat in that regard, but no, I have not read 1500 articles (I have read a bit of Tart, though)... in part, I have not read all the parapsychology literature because I have been also reading the relevant psychology literature. I'd have to suggest that Tart's requirements are far too lenient; an informed opinion should also be cognizant of the non-paranormal literature relevant to the observed phenomena. To comment meaningfully on ESP, one should also be knowledgeable about the experimental research in sensation, perception, psychophysics, memory and cognition. If all you have is a very thorough understanding of the whole of the paranormal research, you are unprepared.

Beth
14th November 2008, 08:21 PM
In regard to the psychology of the skeptic, this thread presents some examples of how skeptics behave when presented with evidence that isn't supportive of their POV.

http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=128149

Jeff Corey
14th November 2008, 09:07 PM
Rationally?

CFLarsen
15th November 2008, 12:37 AM
Why do we have to guess whose these skeptics are?

DC
15th November 2008, 01:07 AM
Some people that think they are skeptics, often just wear those nice glases ;)

http://www.hans-von-terra.de/images/Scheuklappenbrille.jpg

CFLarsen
15th November 2008, 02:09 AM
Some people can only hint that these baaad skeptics exist, but not be able to name them, or argue why.

Ersby
15th November 2008, 02:50 AM
I'm sorry to say that out of the several dozens of people who are strongly critical of parapsychological studies that I have read the writings of and/or met, I can only think of one who has read even a small fraction of the relevant experimental literature, and that one has a very poor track record of persistently repeating factual mistakes in his arguments that he has been corrected on and acknowledged (at the time).

cj, that sounds like he's referring to Hyman, but the article was written in 1997. Wouldn't Marks and Kammann also be on the list? Surely they've read a great deal of the relevant literature. Ackers' extensive article on methodologic flaws in parapsychology was written before 97, I think, so he should be on the list too. Add Scott, Dingwall, Kennedy and Alcock. And that's just me sitting in an internet cafe thinking off the top of my head.

edit:

Markwick, Hansen, Blackmore...

Ersby
15th November 2008, 02:56 AM
With a dog with an IQ testably higher than yours.

Hmm, you're kind of playing into her hands, there.

JihadJane
15th November 2008, 02:58 AM
That scares me. I hope you don't get your paycheck out of my taxes. Having you actually have "frontline experience with terrorism" makes me hope you are checking airline passengers' toothpaste for C4. With a dog with an IQ testably higher than yours.


Your paranoia may be caused by misinterpreting evidence and fabricating quotes.

Your IQ comment illustrates my observation, above, about how many "debunkers" rely on 'Remote Viewing' (ESP) to guide them through life's complexities!

Ersby
15th November 2008, 03:01 AM
To comment meaningfully on ESP, one should also be knowledgeable about the experimental research in sensation, perception, psychophysics, memory and cognition. If all you have is a very thorough understanding of the whole of the paranormal research, you are unprepared.

I agree with this absolutely. I know a great deal about psi research into the ganzfeld, but almost nothing about the gestalt theory from which it came. I've read only one article summarising Metzger's early ganzfeld work (in Italian) and I noticed that what people "saw" in those non-psi ganzfeld experiments (rectangles, tunnels, spheres) do not appear to be what people see in psi ganzfeld experiments (water, sun). This is a curious facet, but I do not have the wherewithal (or more current data) to interpret it properly.

Third Eye Open
15th November 2008, 03:17 AM
Whenever I see 'skeptic' spelled as 'sceptic', I can't help but read it as 'septic' ... I wonder if this is intentional...

JihadJane
15th November 2008, 03:42 AM
Whenever I see 'skeptic' spelled as 'sceptic', I can't help but read it as 'septic' ... I wonder if this is intentional...

Not quite sure who is doing the intending here ... "skeptic" is US English. "Sceptic" is English English.

fls
15th November 2008, 04:28 AM
This quote may sum up the problem.

"Science is one cold-hearted bitch with a 14-inch strap-on."

Linda

shuttlt
15th November 2008, 05:22 AM
I'm sorry to say that out of the several dozens of people who are strongly critical of parapsychological studies that I have read the writings of and/or met, I can only think of one who has read even a small fraction of the relevant experimental literature, and that one has a very poor track record of persistently repeating factual mistakes in his arguments that he has been corrected on and acknowledged (at the time).

Limbo,

If people only expressed an opinion after they had read more than the smallest fraction of the literature the Blogsphere would wither and die. I was involved in opposing a local campaign to ban wi-fi in schools. A month of speed reading and neglecting my day job gave me a decent understanding of the issues and history of the 'debate' but I still hadn't read an aweful lot more than I had. I just don't think what you are asking for is a reasonable expectation.


I'm not in favor of irrational belief, but irrational disbelief is just as bad, especially when such people present themselves as scientists. I might think that quantum physics is pretty crazy, e.g., but if I voice an opinion to that effect I'll make it clear that it's my uninformed, layman's personal opinion, not my opinion as a scientist who has studied and comprehended the relevant data.

True, but people who understand Quantum Mechanics can and do summarize it so that ignorant people like us can understand it. Any fool can see that the double slit experiment is a puzzling result. Where is the psi equivalent of the double slit experiment that shows the layman that there is a phonomenon that needs explaining?


...if you want us to believe this is the informed opinion of a scientist (or philosopher or rational person), kindly go out and read and study the experimental literature first. You have about 1500 articles to read.

Is the evidence really so weak that it is only by reading 1500 articles that the evidence becomes compelling? Remember Quantum Mechanics can be shown to be 'doing something' in one easily repeated experiment. Maybe for good reasons it's a bit harder for psi... but having to read 1500 articles, please! Is there a conspiracy, or is it the case that there is no easily repeated experiment that can demonstrate any effect that could win the Randi $1,000,000?

cj.23
15th November 2008, 05:30 AM
cj, that sounds like he's referring to Hyman, but the article was written in 1997. Wouldn't Marks and Kammann also be on the list? Surely they've read a great deal of the relevant literature. Ackers' extensive article on methodologic flaws in parapsychology was written before 97, I think, so he should be on the list too. Add Scott, Dingwall, Kennedy and Alcock. And that's just me sitting in an internet cafe thinking off the top of my head.

edit:

Markwick, Hansen, Blackmore...


Yes that was what threw me. I assumed the article must date to the about 1981, and he must be referencing researchers active at that time. From Frank Podmore in the 1880's to say Wiseman, Smith and Savva we have never had any lack of intelligent and committed sceptics who are familair with the literature? I am genuinely confused, but I think he must be referring to a limited are of experimental research, maybe the Ganzfeld? But then why not Blackmore at least?

cj x

fls
15th November 2008, 06:05 AM
It would be an interesting exercise, to ascertain how much of the parapsychology literature has been read by each contributer to, say, the recent American Journal of Parapsychology, or European Journal of Parapsychology.

I'd wager I have the average author beat in that regard, but no, I have not read 1500 articles (I have read a bit of Tart, though)... in part, I have not read all the parapsychology literature because I have been also reading the relevant psychology literature. I'd have to suggest that Tart's requirements are far too lenient; an informed opinion should also be cognizant of the non-paranormal literature relevant to the observed phenomena. To comment meaningfully on ESP, one should also be knowledgeable about the experimental research in sensation, perception, psychophysics, memory and cognition. If all you have is a very thorough understanding of the whole of the paranormal research, you are unprepared.

I have to agree that Tart has missed the mark. For example, evidence-based medicine does not find it necessary to recommend that all the articles on any particular topic be read. Instead, one applies simply screening tools to reject many of those articles that provide poor information from which to draw conclusions. Presumably parapsychologists who are making a case for the presence of a particular phenomenon are doing the same - referring to what they consider good information from which to draw conclusions. Recognizing the kind of evidence that allows reliable and valid conclusions to be drawn is not specific to any particular specialty.

If parapsychologists are making their best case with information that is less likely to lead to reliable or valid conclusions, how can we be chastized for failing to consider the information they didn't see fit to include? If the rest of the information is of even poorer quality, it can't add to the strength of any particular conclusion. And if it is not of poorer quality, but rather of better quality, then why aren't parapsychologists using it instead?

Or, if one knows how to perform and/or understand a meta-analysis, it is possible to recognize what conclusions can reasonably drawn from them, and to recognize the various factors which makes those conclusions likely to be invalid, regardless of whether or not anything is known about the area of study.

Linda

cj.23
15th November 2008, 07:20 AM
I suspect Ersby and I would win a study of "parapsychological lit. read" against most of the people i know working in parapsi, but for very different reasons.

Ersby has read a great deal to my certain knowledge, because of his ganzfeld meta analysis - which I regard as the best out there.

I read lot for less noble reasons. Years ago the SPR needed to move a great deal of lit, a couple of tons of SPR Journals and Proceedings, plus some other stuff from storage. My then landlord got a two ton truck and moved it all in to our house. For about a year I slept on boxes of PSPR and JSPR, cooked round them, and had to move them from the bath whenever i wanted a shower. SO I read them, systematically from the 1880s onwards through. A few years later an author from the SPR kindly gifted me with a huge box of offprints from the research for his latest book, so I read those. Finally I found that as a student it was cheap to subscribe to the online parapsi journal database, so I did. In short I never really set out to become well read in the field, but with my research interests and the fact the stuff filled every available corner of my home, well I did I think. :) How much I can remember? Dunno, but reading it was what actually gave me the respect I have for the field. It's generally good critical intelligent stuff.

cj x

Ersby
16th November 2008, 02:49 AM
[..] but I think he must be referring to a limited are of experimental research, maybe the Ganzfeld?

cj x

I'd assumed remote viewing.

Ersby
16th November 2008, 02:51 AM
I suspect Ersby and I would win a study of "parapsychological lit. read" against most of the people i know working in parapsi, but for very different reasons.

Ersby has read a great deal to my certain knowledge, because of his ganzfeld meta analysis - which I regard as the best out there.

Thanks.

For about a year I slept on boxes of PSPR and JSPR, cooked round them, and had to move them from the bath whenever i wanted a shower. SO I read them, systematically from the 1880s onwards through. A few years later an author from the SPR kindly gifted me with a huge box of offprints from the research for his latest book, so I read those.

[...]

cj x

I'm jealous.

edit: well, I would've been jealous a few years ago. I think now it might drive me insane.

blutoski
16th November 2008, 06:48 AM
In regard to the psychology of the skeptic, this thread presents some examples of how skeptics behave when presented with evidence that isn't supportive of their POV.

http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=128149

Again: please consider two problems with this type of 'example'


I think it's lazy and inaccurate to use a website as the source for 'THE skeptical psychology'. There is no clearance of membership to ensure that even one member is a skeptic, and secondly, there is no evidence that even a membership that is 100% skeptics is a representative sample of the global skeptical population. Old Bob posts on this forum, for Pete's sake.
In order to show that the opening post describes a skeptics psychology, it's meaningful to show that it is not ordinary psychology. Skeptics are routinely sent death threats from believers who are irked by the knowledge that somewhere out there, somebody disagrees with them - there's kooks everywhere. I don't have any dispute with the claim that skeptics are vulnerable to every identifiable psychological phenomenon conceivable - I do need evidence that they're more vulnerable to this than other people.

blutoski
16th November 2008, 07:01 AM
Some people can only hint that these baaad skeptics exist, but not be able to name them, or argue why.

Do you mean name them by name? Or do you mean that you're just not aware of people who participate in skepticism but don't actually practice skepticism?

The latter are what I call pseudoskeptics or paraskeptics.

Pseudoskeptic was a term invented by Marcello Truzzi. He was referring to people who may hold common skeptical conclusions (such as atheism or materialism) but not because they've thought it through, and not because they're interested in weighing the facts. Unlike authentic skeptics, if new facts come about, they will not change their minds, but will gradually become crackpots. The director of BCSkeptics doesn't believe in global warming (not "doesn't believe in anthropogenic global warming" - no, he thinks the world is much colder now than 100 years ago, and that the published temperature graphs showing warming trends are fabricated - the result of widespread scientific incompetence and government propaganda, motive undetermined).

An example of a paraskeptic being my friend who in principle believes in scientific skepticism, but is constantly defending his profession: homeopathy. He's got the right idea but keeps coming to the wrong conclusions because he is indiscriminate about how he identifies reliable information.

blutoski
16th November 2008, 07:16 AM
Or, if one knows how to perform and/or understand a meta-analysis, it is possible to recognize what conclusions can reasonably drawn from them, and to recognize the various factors which makes those conclusions likely to be invalid, regardless of whether or not anything is known about the area of study.

I don't even think a meta-analysis would be necessary: I'd settle for a nice literature review.

A few years ago, I did a literature review on a healthfraud topic of multiple chemical sensitivity. It was a huge investment in time, because even reading the published papers isn't sufficient - I had to contact several authors for clarifications, and some papers ultimately did not have enough concrete information to be included in the review.

The key to a literature review is to publish your search and inclusion criteria. What's interesting is that after reading about 450 papers on mcs, only about 30 were acceptable, which is informative in its own right.

So, what I'm trying to point out is that many skeptics would feel that reading 1500 papers on psi could be a waste of their time because there is a fundamental disagreement about what constitutes an acceptable paper in the first place. I would be pleased as punch if somebody would sort through those 1500 papers and isolate the double-blinded, placebo-controlled studies by authors who have not been caught fabricating data and with subjects who have not been caught conjuring. What comes out of the filter would probably be exactly the sort of thing skeptics would love to read, and it might even change their minds.

I've been tossed the "you can't have an opinion until you've read all the literature" fob before, in other fields of knowledge, and it's just unreasonable expectations that leads to an infinite amount of required reading ("Sure, you've read all the 1500 papers, but did you read each and every one of the references in the papers? And the references in the references? No? Then come back when you've done that and we'll talk.")

blutoski
16th November 2008, 07:24 AM
Sorry for the lack of reference. I'd assumed that the psychic dog controversy would be common knowledge. It was one of the first bits of information I came across when I did a bit of google research into who James Randi is when I joined this forum. I'd previously only vaguely heard of him. Blutoski's and cj.23's (and others?) ignorance of this controversy suggests they haven't applied their skeptical curiosity to the Master ;).

Returning to this after a couple of days of thought... the reason this rankled me was that I was flabbergasted that you found the brass to criticize us for focusing on the actual research and paying no attention to what James Randi says about the situation in a thread apparently dedicated to saying we should be doing exactly this. I spent a couple of days trying to figure out if there was some internally consistent argument, but have concluded that if this is the case, I can't detect it.





Interestingly, one of the the episodes that Sheldrake relates is very similar to those described in the OP (apparently inaccurately) in the Edison and the Wright brothers examples:

AKA: "The Galileo Card" - and even that's misguided. Galileo was arguing that the new natural science models were better, not defending old prescientific ideas, as the church was in his day, and psi researchers are today.

JihadJane
16th November 2008, 12:12 PM
Why would you doubt [that Sheldrake would publish easily discredited lies on his website.]?

My impression, formed by reading some of Sheldrake's stuff in the past, is that he isn't idiotic enough to post easily discredited, potentially libelous lies about someone on his website.


Returning to this after a couple of days of thought... the reason this rankled me was that I was flabbergasted that you found the brass to criticize us for focusing on the actual research and paying no attention to what James Randi says about the situation in a thread apparently dedicated to saying we should be doing exactly this. I spent a couple of days trying to figure out if there was some internally consistent argument, but have concluded that if this is the case, I can't detect it.

Doing exactly what?

I find it difficult to relate what you are saying here to what I have said, possibly because of the syntax. Were you rankled because you considered my post off-topic? Are you saying it is wrong of me to expect you to pay any attention to what James Randi has said about the ESP dog situation? Did I criticise you "for focusing on the actual research"?

My comment was rooted in the implications of skeptical posters here never having heard of the episosde I brought up. It made me wonder if skeptics only investigated the dark side of the "the dwooluded ones" while avoiding that of their heros. However, I guess there's no particular reason you should be interested in James Randi just because you are posting on a website with his name and beard on it. Later you said you had heard of the controversy but that my earlier description had been too vague, so my point doesn't apply to you anyway.

Sorry about my brass! Perhaps it partly stems from the rabid reception I received in my one previous foray into this subforum (see links , below), when I carelessly shared that I'd had what I considered positive results from following Remote Viewing protocols. I was immediately pounced on by skeptics (it felt like an ambush!) who tried to bully, bribe and emotionally manipulate me (think of the orphans etc) into taking the MDC to prove my "abilities and "powas"! It left me with a strong impression of what a skeptic psychology might look like, added to that which I'd already formed in other places.

http://www.randi.org/forumlive/showthread.php?t=123248

Rabid split-off: http://www.randi.org/forumlive/showthread.php?t=123353

I wasn't particularly making any "argument" about anything in the comment you quoted. I was bringing up what I thought was interesting and thought-provoking information, assuming the episode would be well-known because it involved rare, claimed, documented evidence of long distance perception by a dog. Randi's alleged reaction is interesting.

I would expect Randi supporters to have already discredited Sheldrake's story if they could. It might seem strange to use the language of gang warfare but it reflects my experience of this forum!

I do believe it's acceptable to share for discussion something written by someone else. It is relevant to the topic. I look forward to any response that cj.23 gets from Sheldrake.



Originally Posted by JihadJane
Interestingly, one of the the episodes that Sheldrake relates is very similar to those described in the OP (apparently inaccurately) in the Edison and the Wright brothers examples:


AKA: "The Galileo Card" - and even that's misguided. Galileo was arguing that the new natural science models were better, not defending old prescientific ideas, as the church was in his day, and psi researchers are today.

I don't think the similarity that I noticed relates to "The Galileo Card" but relates instead, potentially, to Skeptic psychology. According to Sheldrake, Randi, just as the scientists were alleged to have done in the Edison and Wright Bros episodes, made a confident judgement about a phenomena without having witnessed it (or film of it), confident, also, that his reputation would nevertheless remain intact. It appears to be an expression of power as much as of strong belief.

Thanks for your responses. I'll be more detailed and less brassy in my future posts here to avoid further confusion and upset!

tyr_13
16th November 2008, 02:05 PM
Discredited Sheldrake's story if they could? You're right, they probably would have. That doesn't in any way make his story either true or important.

shuttlt
16th November 2008, 03:07 PM
Discredited Sheldrake's story if they could? You're right, they probably would have. That doesn't in any way make his story either true or important.

Agreed, but it could show that we can be a little to eager to call bunk, bunk and fall fould of all sorts a biases. I'd say that woulc be fair criticism. Of course it's still bunk though.

blutoski
17th November 2008, 01:51 PM
My impression, formed by reading some of Sheldrake's stuff in the past, is that he isn't idiotic enough to post easily discredited, potentially libelous lies about someone on his website.

I appreciate that Sheldrake is not a likely person to indulge in deliberate libel. The whole thing sounds more like honest miscommunication.





I find it difficult to relate what you are saying here to what I have said, possibly because of the syntax. Were you rankled because you considered my post off-topic? Are you saying it is wrong of me to expect you to pay any attention to what James Randi has said about the ESP dog situation? Did I criticise you "for focusing on the actual research"?

My comment was rooted in the implications of skeptical posters here never having heard of the episosde I brought up. It made me wonder if skeptics only investigated the dark side of the "the dwooluded ones" while avoiding that of their heros. However, I guess there's no particular reason you should be interested in James Randi just because you are posting on a website with his name and beard on it.

Mm. My point is that you seemed to be arguing that skeptics have a bad habit of giving the skeptical celebrities too much benefit of the doubt, and are not applying due skepticism to their statements. I inferred that you felt the correct approach would be to examine the evidence itself.






Later you said you had heard of the controversy but that my earlier description had been too vague, so my point doesn't apply to you anyway.

Well, I'm aware of these controversies in the same way that I'm aware that JR was shot on Dallas. But I never wasted any time watching the show, because I'm not into soap operas.







I wasn't particularly making any "argument" about anything in the comment you quoted. I was bringing up what I thought was interesting and thought-provoking information, assuming the episode would be well-known because it involved rare, claimed, documented evidence of long distance perception by a dog. Randi's alleged reaction is interesting.

I agree. You can use this to explore Randi's psychology for sure.

But, if your thesis is about skeptics you need to do more than throw out a few examples. eg: As my wife has to remind people, "Louis Farrakhan does x" is not "black people do x".





I don't think the similarity that I noticed relates to "The Galileo Card" but relates instead, potentially, to Skeptic psychology. According to Sheldrake, Randi, just as the scientists were alleged to have done in the Edison and Wright Bros episodes, made a confident judgement about a phenomena without having witnessed it (or film of it), confident, also, that his reputation would nevertheless remain intact. It appears to be an expression of power as much as of strong belief.

Ah. I didn't know you were focussing on the non-witnessing part. The most common use of those anecdotes is to poison the well of criticism by pointing out that experts have been wrong in the past, implying that experts who criticize are wrong often enough to be ignored.

Beth
17th November 2008, 02:56 PM
Again: please consider two problems with this type of 'example'


I think it's lazy and inaccurate to use a website as the source for 'THE skeptical psychology'. There is no clearance of membership to ensure that even one member is a skeptic, and secondly, there is no evidence that even a membership that is 100% skeptics is a representative sample of the global skeptical population. Old Bob posts on this forum, for Pete's sake.
In order to show that the opening post describes a skeptics psychology, it's meaningful to show that it is not ordinary psychology. Skeptics are routinely sent death threats from believers who are irked by the knowledge that somewhere out there, somebody disagrees with them - there's kooks everywhere. I don't have any dispute with the claim that skeptics are vulnerable to every identifiable psychological phenomenon conceivable - I do need evidence that they're more vulnerable to this than other people.

First point: I have no argument with the idea that it's not a representative sample. I didn't say it was. I was merely pointing out that it does show an example of the response of self-described skeptics to a claim of experimental evidence that contradicts their assumptions. I think it is reasonable to consider it as an example in that context.

Second point: I'm not sure what to make of this comment. The skeptic's response in that thread (did you read it?) isn't an example of anything out of the ordinary. It seems pretty typical of the response of any group to an unverifiable anecdote that implies that a basic tenet of the core beliefs that define the group may be inaccurate. Personally, I think if is an example of something that isn't ordinary psychology, I would assess the skeptics on that thread have been better behaved that I would expect to see in a most other groups/forums and about par for the course for a well-educated and scientifically minded group.

fls
17th November 2008, 03:59 PM
I don't even think a meta-analysis would be necessary: I'd settle for a nice literature review.

:)

I'd settle for a nice literature review that seemed trustworthy.

I read papers that I find on a google search on a particular topic, the references from review papers and books, papers that parapsychologists point to as important, and papers that are brought up by individuals as supporting a particular idea. But I don't know how representative these are, which have subsequently been discredited by the discovery of methodologic errors or outright deceit, or what useful papers I have missed in my search. I don't want to distrust parapsychologists, but I cannot ignore my discovery that on occasion they refer to research that I already know had methodologic flaws that rendered the results invalid, they grossly misrepresent the results of some research, and they show poor judgement when it comes to the choice of statistical methods (for example, Radin's choice of the 'fail-safe-N' when addressing the issue of publication bias). Because I am not familiar with all of the literature in parapschology, I recognize that it would be fairly easy to mislead me. Once I see that someone is misleading me, I'm not going to trust the rest of what they have to say. I do find some authors who seem to be trustworthy (at least no red flags are raised when I read their work), but unfortunately* they all seem to be skeptics (even if they didn't start that way).

So, what I'm trying to point out is that many skeptics would feel that reading 1500 papers on psi could be a waste of their time because there is a fundamental disagreement about what constitutes an acceptable paper in the first place. I would be pleased as punch if somebody would sort through those 1500 papers and isolate the double-blinded, placebo-controlled studies by authors who have not been caught fabricating data and with subjects who have not been caught conjuring. What comes out of the filter would probably be exactly the sort of thing skeptics would love to read, and it might even change their minds.

Exactly! I'm just not sure if anyone is doing that.

I do appreciate the opportunity on the JREF forum to hear from people such as Ersby and cj.23 who do have a better understanding of the literature, but also take methodological rigour into consideration, and seem genuinely interested in discovering whether there is anything to explore.

Linda

*By unfortunately, I mean that it leaves me open to criticism from believers that I am not giving them a fair hearing, as I think the assumption is that all/any skeptics are biased.

JihadJane
18th November 2008, 02:21 AM
Recent article discussing The Authoritarian Personality:

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21235.htm

"The authors also found a very high correlation between possessing a number of these traits and demonstrating a consistent and malignant prejudice against out-groups."

fls
18th November 2008, 03:36 AM
Recent article discussing The Authoritarian Personality:

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21235.htm

"The authors also found a very high correlation between possessing a number of these traits and demonstrating a consistent and malignant prejudice against out-groups."

And these were the traits they were referring to:

"An entrenched obsession with safety, security, and order.
Rigidly absolutist “black-and-white” thinking (e.g., us against them).
An overemphasis on “strength,” power, and control; a “might makes right” orientation.
Authoritarian submission: a willingness to blindly obey the rules of authorities.
Authoritarian aggression: an aggressive attitude towards individuals or groups disliked by the authorities; bullying individuals or groups perceived to threaten traditional values.
A belief that negotiation, understanding, empathy, and compromise are weak.
A belief in the need to punish those who do not follow rules to the letter.
Scornful rejection of the subjective, imaginative, and aesthetic dimensions of life.
Superstition, cliché-mongering, stereotyping, and fatalism.
A belief in fixed, unalterable, and traditional roles for women.
Secret insecurity when unable to live up to high standards imposed publicly on others.
Identification with those in power, with excessive emphasis on posturing toughness.
Destructiveness, cynicism, general hostility, and a habit of putting down perceived opponents.
Projection: the tendency to see evil, exploitativeness, and danger in others instead of in oneself.
An exaggerated concern with other people’s sexual activity."

This is what I'm talking about. This deserves ridicule. I'm sorry for speaking plainly, but I think we need to call a spade a spade here. If we are trying to determine whether skeptics ridicule arguments that don't deserve ridicule, it doesn't help to continue to serve up arguments that are ridiculous. Can you understand that it becomes difficult for us to overcome the impression that it leaves us with, no matter how genuine our efforts?

Linda

Mercutio
18th November 2008, 04:25 AM
Recent article discussing The Authoritarian Personality:

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21235.htm

"The authors also found a very high correlation between possessing a number of these traits and demonstrating a consistent and malignant prejudice against out-groups."
Could I ask what relevance you feel this has to the current discussion? Perhaps (without your comment I cannot say what your point was) this is a good example of what I mean by a familiarity with the relevant literature in psychology as well as parapsychology; I know, without looking (I'm not a complete idiot--I did click the link to test myself) that the Authoritarian Personality was an attempt, in the years following World War II, to see what it was about the Germans that allowed the Nazis to come to such power. Adorno's "F scale" was the test for Authoritarianism; the "F" stood for fascism.

If (and of course, that is the question under debate) a skeptic requires evidence (some would say that is a skeptic's defining characteristic) of foolishness before ridiculing a group, they cannot be seen as "demonstrating a consistent and malignant prejudice against out-groups." On the other hand, if "skeptic" (or "sceptic") is redefined (as, for example, Interesting Ian did), and skeptics like myself are seen as "exceptions to the rule" (as above in this thread), then that combination of redefining and culling will leave the remaining skeptics perhaps much higher on the F Scale. And of course, it will utterly be an artifact of biased sampling.

If the question of the skeptic's personality is a good one, it is worth answering properly, and letting the evidence lead to the conclusion. If your conclusion is what leads you to pick particular evidence... you're doing it wrong.

Ersby
18th November 2008, 06:43 AM
I found this.

“Associative processing and paranormal belief”, Gianotti, Mohr, Pizzagalli, Lehmann, Brugger, Psychiatry And Clinical Neurosciences (2001), 55, 595–603

From the abstract: In 40 trials the two stimulus words were semantically indirectly related and in 40 other trials the words were semantically unrelated. Separately for these two stimulus types, response commonalities and association latencies were calculated. The main finding was that for unrelated stimuli, believers produced associations that were more original (had a lower frequency of occurrence in the group as a whole) than those of the skeptics. For the interpretation of the result we propose a model of association behavior that captures both ‘positive’ psychological aspects (i.e., verbal creativity) and ‘negative’ aspects (susceptibility to unfounded inferences), and outline its relevance for psychiatry.
This model suggests that believers adopt a looser response criterion than skeptics when confronted with ‘semantic noise’. Such a signal detection view of the presence/absence of judgments for loose semantic relations may help to elucidate the commonalities between creative thinking, paranormal belief and delusional ideation.

tyr_13
18th November 2008, 08:04 AM
Recent article discussing The Authoritarian Personality:

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21235.htm

"The authors also found a very high correlation between possessing a number of these traits and demonstrating a consistent and malignant prejudice against out-groups."

I too am having trouble understanding what this has to do with skeptics. Sure, between all the skeptics on the board you could find one example of each of those traits, but that means nothing.

Ersby
19th November 2008, 06:06 AM
I read Leiter’s paper again (the one about PhACT referenced in the opening post), and it was interesting to see some of the reasoning he used. First, he defined sceptics as bad, and himself as good ( “our own excellent, important Society” [...] “I would no more wish to be known as such a Skeptic, than I would wish to be known as a dupe, the opposite extreme, i.e. someone who is extremely gullible. For me, the most desirable mind-set is exactly in the center of these two extremes, in a middle ground I would call rational balance.” - From this I inferred that he considered himself as having the most desirable mind-set).

He then groups other good things with himself and his group ( “That middle ground is where true science thrives. [...] This middle ground is the natural habitat of SSE.”) and bad things with skeptics ( “As a result, they seem to be far more comfortable on the trailing edge of scientific progress than on the leading edge.”). Having done that, he then compares the two groups to see which is better. I've seen this tactic on both sides, and it seems odd to use it when trying to prove that you're not the type of person to use it.

tyr_13
19th November 2008, 09:22 AM
So he is basically using the term 'Skeptic' as equal to 'pathological disbeliever'?

Skeptic is not the opposite of dupe. A skeptic does not believe nothing, but only holds belief until what they understand as good evidence supports it. What is a good enough level of evidence will vary depending on the skeptic. Skeptics can be dupes, one who has been duped.

eirik
19th November 2008, 09:32 AM
The OP is nothing but a 15 min. ad hominem. Interestingly, it therefore unintentionally gives some insight on the writer.

So does the psychopath(or whatever's the correct term nowadays)-profile from jihadJane. I'm sure most people in given situations can recognise themselves in some of the given descriptions. Why is that relevant here?

Why does skeptics psychology (if you or any were capable of mapping this) have any relevance to the question on woo being true or not?

tyr_13
19th November 2008, 10:05 AM
Why does skeptics psychology (if you or any were capable of mapping this) have any relevance to the question on woo being true or not?

You know I'm not really sure he ever claimed this. So 'skeptics' might tend to be mean, petty, ********, but they also tend to be correct, mean, petty, ********.

Sherlock
19th November 2008, 10:34 AM
It's simple. Skeptics are generally an honest rational bunch. And those who aren't willing to be consider themselves skeptical are generally delusional. Fortunately I'm a confirmed skeptic, therefore my statement is not delusional.

eirik
19th November 2008, 04:39 PM
You know I'm not really sure he ever claimed this. So 'skeptics' might tend to be mean, petty, ********, but they also tend to be correct, mean, petty, ********.

Sorry, I'll try to be more blunt in my rethorical questions:) He didn't claim it directly, but he implied it, and continues to do so.

I thought the OP started well, it was based on a good idea, and could have given some refreshing information on a little debated subjectt. Instead I find out it's just a "clever" ad hominem attack on people who bases their worldview on facts, not fiction. Disappointing.

tyr_13
19th November 2008, 05:17 PM
Sorry, I'll try to be more blunt in my rethorical questions:) He didn't claim it directly, but he implied it, and continues to do so.

I thought the OP started well, it was based on a good idea, and could have given some refreshing information on a little debated subjectt. Instead I find out it's just a "clever" ad hominem attack on people who bases their worldview on facts, not fiction. Disappointing.

I thought the same thing to, hoping for a serious discussion and deep research. Oh well, there are still pieces of information to be picked through.

godless dave
20th November 2008, 05:15 PM
Two aspects of my personality that I'm not proud of are I like being right, and I like winning an easy fight. Arguing with creationists, for example, is attractive to me because it's like shooting fish in a barrel. There are good reasons to combat irrational thinking and dishonesty, but assuaging my own ego is not one of them. So that's something I struggle with.

CFLarsen
20th November 2008, 11:58 PM
How did the fish get in the barrel?

God put them there...

JihadJane
21st November 2008, 04:05 AM
And these were the traits they were referring to:

"An entrenched obsession with safety, security, and order.
Rigidly absolutist “black-and-white” thinking (e.g., us against them).
An overemphasis on “strength,” power, and control; a “might makes right” orientation.
Authoritarian submission: a willingness to blindly obey the rules of authorities.
Authoritarian aggression: an aggressive attitude towards individuals or groups disliked by the authorities; bullying individuals or groups perceived to threaten traditional values.
A belief that negotiation, understanding, empathy, and compromise are weak.
A belief in the need to punish those who do not follow rules to the letter.
Scornful rejection of the subjective, imaginative, and aesthetic dimensions of life.
Superstition, cliché-mongering, stereotyping, and fatalism.
A belief in fixed, unalterable, and traditional roles for women.
Secret insecurity when unable to live up to high standards imposed publicly on others.
Identification with those in power, with excessive emphasis on posturing toughness.
Destructiveness, cynicism, general hostility, and a habit of putting down perceived opponents.
Projection: the tendency to see evil, exploitativeness, and danger in others instead of in oneself.
An exaggerated concern with other people’s sexual activity."

This is what I'm talking about. This deserves ridicule. I'm sorry for speaking plainly, but I think we need to call a spade a spade here. If we are trying to determine whether skeptics ridicule arguments that don't deserve ridicule, it doesn't help to continue to serve up arguments that are ridiculous. Can you understand that it becomes difficult for us to overcome the impression that it leaves us with, no matter how genuine our efforts?

Linda

Posting this list out of context is somewhat misleading. The next sentence says: "The authors also found a very high correlation between possessing a number of these traits and demonstrating a consistent and malignant prejudice against out-groups."

To qualify for an Authoritarian Personality badge requires possessing only some of the traits. I am not claiming, for example, that I've noticed that skeptics are likely to be voyeurs. I have particulaary observed the following traits in those posting online comments as supposed skeptics:

-Rigidly absolutist “black-and-white” thinking (e.g., us against them).

- An overemphasis on “strength,” power, and control; a “might makes right” orientation.

- Authoritarian submission: a willingness to blindly obey the rules of authorities.

- Authoritarian aggression: an aggressive attitude towards individuals or groups disliked by the authorities; bullying individuals or groups perceived to threaten traditional values.

-A belief that negotiation, understanding, empathy, and compromise are weak.

- Identification with those in power, with excessive emphasis on posturing toughness.

- Destructiveness, cynicism, general hostility, and a habit of putting down perceived opponents.

Some of these traits may not be so obvious in the paranormal section of JREF, being the least demading for those attracted to shooting fish in barrels.

Godless dave honestly decribes what I suspect are the primary motivations for those who identify themsleves as skeptics and who engage enthusiastically in online debate:


Two aspects of my personality that I'm not proud of are I like being right, and I like winning an easy fight. Arguing with creationists, for example, is attractive to me because it's like shooting fish in a barrel. There are good reasons to combat irrational thinking and dishonesty, but assuaging my own ego is not one of them. So that's something I struggle with.

Is anyone perpared to argue that "shooting fish in a barrel" not connected with ego gratification?

My impressions are based on two years of mingling with the unwashed, as it were ;), mostly on JREF, the ScrewLooseChange comments section, and commentisfree.

A tendency to use infantalising, patronising language (and often crude abuse) when describing or addressing the people they disagree with is the most outstanding trademark of the Skeptic movement, in all of its branches.

fls
21st November 2008, 04:44 AM
Posting this list out of context is somewhat misleading. The next sentence says: "The authors also found a very high correlation between possessing a number of these traits and demonstrating a consistent and malignant prejudice against out-groups."

Yes, the sentence refers to "these traits" and I thought that it would be helpful to give some context to the remark by copying the list of traits verboten.

To qualify for an Authoritarian Personality badge requires possessing only some of the traits. I am not claiming, for example, that I've noticed that skeptics are likely to be voyeurs. I have particulaary observed the following traits in those posting online comments as supposed skeptics:

-Rigidly absolutist “black-and-white” thinking (e.g., us against them).

- An overemphasis on “strength,” power, and control; a “might makes right” orientation.

- Authoritarian submission: a willingness to blindly obey the rules of authorities.

- Authoritarian aggression: an aggressive attitude towards individuals or groups disliked by the authorities; bullying individuals or groups perceived to threaten traditional values.

-A belief that negotiation, understanding, empathy, and compromise are weak.

- Identification with those in power, with excessive emphasis on posturing toughness.

- Destructiveness, cynicism, general hostility, and a habit of putting down perceived opponents.

Again, these statements are trivially easy to counteract, especially since you have already demonstrated that at least some don't apply. For example, you already discovered that many of us pay no attention to what Randi has to say on the subject of Sheldrake, which negates the idea that we are blindly submitting to authority. It is easy to dismiss your criticisms as due to prejudice because some are so obviously ridiculous. This makes it difficult to give thoughtful consideration to anything else to anything else you have to say.

Some of these traits may not be so obvious in the paranormal section of JREF, being the least demading for those attracted to shooting fish in barrels.

Godless dave honestly decribes what I suspect are the primary motivations for those who identify themsleves as skeptics and who engage enthusiastically in online debate:

Is anyone perpared to argue that "shooting fish in a barrel" not connected with ego gratification?

You have already been told by several people here, myself included, that it is definitely not gratifying to shoot fish in a barrel, regardless of whether some people find it so. Is this not a demonstration of what we have been complaining about? You have simply ignored those statements that negate your prejudices in order to maintain the illusion that your prejudices are valid.

My impressions are based on two years of mingling with the unwashed, as it were ;), mostly on JREF, the ScrewLooseChange comments section, and commentisfree.

A tendency to use infantalising, patronising language (and often crude abuse) when describing or addressing the people they disagree with is the most outstanding trademark of the Skeptic movement, in all of its branches.

But considering your actions in this thread, isn't it likely that you simply remembered the few times you saw the use of this kind of language and ignored all the rest?

If you were really serious about understanding the skeptic, you would document the examples that don't confirm your impressions in addition to those that do.

Linda

Ersby
21st November 2008, 05:47 AM
My impressions are based on two years of mingling with the unwashed, as it were ;), mostly on JREF, the ScrewLooseChange comments section, and commentisfree.

A tendency to use infantalising, patronising language (and often crude abuse) when describing or addressing the people they disagree with is the most outstanding trademark of the Skeptic movement, in all of its branches.

If skeptics used infantalising, patronising language and then put a smiley afterwards, would that be okay?

JihadJane
21st November 2008, 07:09 AM
If skeptics used infantalising, patronising language and then put a smiley afterwards, would that be okay?

It would indicate that they were conscious of indulging in playground antics. It might lead to greater mutual empathy and self-awareness in the long run.

The majority of online skeptics I've come across take themselves too seriously to use smileys, probably believing that admitting to feeling emotions or using playful visual shorthand are signs of weakness. (See The Authoritarian Personality).

Ersby
21st November 2008, 07:14 AM
So it would be okay?

JihadJane
21st November 2008, 07:29 AM
I'm okay with infantalising, patronising language with or without smileys. It tells a lot about the person using it, the likely psychological foundations of their beliefs and the probable strength of their arguments. I find it reassuring. It makes the user look weak and unsure of themselves.

To be 100% honest I stick the smileys in partly because I know it upsets a certain type of person.

Ersby
21st November 2008, 07:36 AM
Thank you for your honesty. I now understand where you're coming from. :)

Moochie
21st November 2008, 11:36 AM
Generalizations heaped on generalizations, demonstrating bugger all.

IMO fear is the key -- a person who fears does not know truth. A person who knows truth does not, indeed cannot fear.

It doesn't matter what label you give yourself, or what label others attach to you. Truth is self-evident to all with eyes to see. Fear comes from refusing to look.


M.

tyr_13
21st November 2008, 03:23 PM
I'm okay with infantalising, patronising language with or without smileys. It tells a lot about the person using it, the likely psychological foundations of their beliefs and the probable strength of their arguments. I find it reassuring. It makes the user look weak and unsure of themselves.

To be 100% honest I stick the smileys in partly because I know it upsets a certain type of person.

And you're calling skeptics 'infantile'?

godless dave
21st November 2008, 09:02 PM
When someone believes in something as ludicrous as, say, that vaccines cause autism, something that was publicly disproved years ago, or something as blatantly ridiculous as the 2012 nonsense, can you understand why others would us patronizing language? In situations like those it is very difficult for me to believe that the believer is being honest.

blutoski
22nd November 2008, 01:14 PM
IMO fear is the key -- a person who fears does not know truth. A person who knows truth does not, indeed cannot fear.

It doesn't matter what label you give yourself, or what label others attach to you. Truth is self-evident to all with eyes to see. Fear comes from refusing to look.

I have trouble understanding this. My observation is that lack of information is just as likely to eliminate fear as incite it.

Just as an anecdote: as a lifeguard, I'm afraid to go into certain bodies of water because I know the bottom is cluttered with sharp objects. Other swimmers have no fear of going in, because they don't know about the danger.

I'm having trouble making any sense out of your post.

blutoski
22nd November 2008, 01:30 PM
Recent article discussing The Authoritarian Personality:

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21235.htm

"The authors also found a very high correlation between possessing a number of these traits and demonstrating a consistent and malignant prejudice against out-groups."

The major problem with associating skeptics with APT (aside from the fact that APT never really obtained widespread acceptance as part of a personality descriptor model) is that skeptics are pretty obviously characterized by the opposite: they tend to be outsiders drawn together by the experience of being rejected by their communities.

That's not a solid rule, of course - I'm talking about what I believe is statistically predictable about a sample of skeptics versus the regular population.

My anecdotal observations lead me to want to do proper surveys because I predict that the skeptical community should be distinguishable in many ways. Specifically a skeptic is more likely (not guaranteed) to have:


anti-authoritarian attitude (1)
enjoyment of thought puzzles
interest in natural sciences
insight into personal limitations vis a vis memory, perception


Also, I predict there is an increased incidence of strong opinionation or even OCPD within skepticism than within the general population. But this is also probably true for membership in political parties and many other nonprofit groups, so while it's more common in skepticism than in the overall population, it's probably not more common than other self-identified 'movements'.

(1) (my pet peeve in skepticism is the widespread rejection of all appeals to authority, in my opinion it is both unjustified and counterproductive)

Richard Masters
22nd November 2008, 02:04 PM
What does Parapsychology have to do with Psychology?

While some points in the original article do have a basis in Psychology, we are still talking about statistical methods.

If you say "people are bound to have a blind spot", therefore "James Randi is bound to have a blind spot", that is likely to be accurate.

But you can't stretch the original premise to assert that "James Randi is wrong".

And if you say that "James Randi is likely to be wrong" you are still ignoring (1) his base rate (for example, thus far, he has been shown to be correct when debunking the paranormal), and (2) the fact that having a blind spot is not terminal - One can systematically identify blind spots; James Randi is exemplary.

Additionally, Psychologists don't want to be associated with Parapsychology. It's hard enough to establish credibility in a complex (statistical) field when you've got scamsters like "The Secret" crowd borrowing and twisting bits of Psychology, but inventing New Age explanations to create modern cults and religions.

It's hard enough throwing away old Psychology such as Freudian psychoanalysis and certain misleading myths such as "we only use 10% of our brains", so if you are a Parapsychologist, you better make a really good case, or you are going to be discarded faster than these old myths.

blutoski
23rd November 2008, 10:36 AM
What does Parapsychology have to do with Psychology?

While some points in the original article do have a basis in Psychology, we are still talking about statistical methods.

If you say "people are bound to have a blind spot", therefore "James Randi is bound to have a blind spot", that is likely to be accurate.

But you can't stretch the original premise to assert that "James Randi is wrong".

And if you say that "James Randi is likely to be wrong" you are still ignoring (1) his base rate (for example, thus far, he has been shown to be correct when debunking the paranormal), and (2) the fact that having a blind spot is not terminal - One can systematically identify blind spots; James Randi is exemplary.

Additionally, Psychologists don't want to be associated with Parapsychology. It's hard enough to establish credibility in a complex (statistical) field when you've got scamsters like "The Secret" crowd borrowing and twisting bits of Psychology, but inventing New Age explanations to create modern cults and religions.

It's hard enough throwing away old Psychology such as Freudian psychoanalysis and certain misleading myths such as "we only use 10% of our brains", so if you are a Parapsychologist, you better make a really good case, or you are going to be discarded faster than these old myths.

My impression was that the opening post was an attempt to explain why skeptics are not accepting evidence that psi advocates consider very convincing - there must be something wrong with the skeptics' minds.

I don't think the argument was being used to actually support the argument that psi exists - I felt that was a 'given'... a hidden premise in the stated argument that skeptics have mental problems.

blutoski
23rd November 2008, 10:51 AM
What does Parapsychology have to do with Psychology?

Also: my personal opinion is that parapsychology is entirely psychology. Everything from perception to cognition.

I also think that a claim that states that there might be differences in the personalities between skeptics and believers is probably true - but that's a circular argument, and doesn't tell you whether one, both, or neither group is mentally unhealthy.

A poster submitted information about Authoritative Personality Type earlier. Ignoring the questionable validity of this personality model, it's important to observe that the poster seems to have completely missed the tragic fact that so many psi believers are classic APT. Think: Scientology, Heaven's Gate. Arguably, members of Sylvia Browne's cult Novus are boiler-plate APT. All those guys in the military who were sincerely developing weaponized psi applications in the 1970s and 1980s - APT straight from a WWII gestapo role casting call.

So, while psychology is unable to tell us whether psi is real or not, it will help us interpret the behavior of both individual participants and also help us understand its perennial mass appeal. One outcome of this would be to develop credible strategies for working with the real human psychologies involved instead of a Quixotic railing against these widespread beliefs with our ideology that truth conquers simply by being available.

JihadJane
23rd November 2008, 02:27 PM
And you're calling skeptics 'infantile'?

No.

When someone believes in something as ludicrous as, say, that vaccines cause autism, something that was publicly disproved years ago, or something as blatantly ridiculous as the 2012 nonsense, can you understand why others would us patronizing language? In situations like those it is very difficult for me to believe that the believer is being honest.

What makes you believe that believers are being dishonest rather than simply seeing things differently?

Most of us hold ludicrous beliefs. What, for instance, isn't ridiculous about supporting an economic system based on usury and perpetual growth?


skeptics ... tend to be outsiders drawn together by the experience of being rejected by their communities.

Rejecting a powerful authority can create a strong, even evangelical desire for different kind of certainty.



A poster submitted information about Authoritative Personality Type earlier. Ignoring the questionable validity of this personality model, it's important to observe that the poster seems to have completely missed the tragic fact that so many psi believers are classic APT. Think: Scientology, Heaven's Gate. Arguably, members of Sylvia Browne's cult Novus are boiler-plate APT. All those guys in the military who were sincerely developing weaponized psi applications in the 1970s and 1980s - APT straight from a WWII gestapo role casting call.



I haven't missed "the tragic fact" at all. I think the two schools ( pro and anti) are joined at the hip. Suspicious people are often gullible. Gullible people are often suspicious.

Wondering whether there is a generalised "Skeptic" psychology has nothing to do the the credibility or otherwise of "psi believers". What draws skeptics to focus of certain areas of belief while ignoring other, equally ludicrous ones?

From another thread:

yes. I mean, the fight against wonder healers and other charlatans is very good and imprtant, i fear the impact is very small. But atleast they try it.
But when it comes to scandals of the pharma or non organic farms, that seems to be no issue here, handwaving like, no system is perfect. etc.


So, while psychology is unable to tell us whether psi is real or not, it will help us interpret the behavior of both individual participants and also help us understand its perennial mass appeal. One outcome of this would be to develop credible strategies for working with the real human psychologies involved instead of a Quixotic railing against these widespread beliefs with our ideology that truth conquers simply by being available.

Are Skeptics (with a capital 'S') missionaries?

Beth
23rd November 2008, 02:52 PM
My impression was that the opening post was an attempt to explain why skeptics are not accepting evidence that psi advocates consider very convincing - there must be something wrong with the skeptics' minds.

I don't think the argument was being used to actually support the argument that psi exists - I felt that was a 'given'... a hidden premise in the stated argument that skeptics have mental problems.

I agree. Did it make you feel angry, threatened or defensive about being a skeptic?

What I find fascinating is that if the arguments go the other way, if a skeptics phrasing seems to imply a 'given' that psi doesn't exist, and a hidden premise that those words indicate that believers have mental problems, objecting to those premises is treated far differently depending on the forum you are posting on.

Limbo
23rd November 2008, 04:04 PM
Did it make you feel angry, threatened or defensive about being a skeptic?


That's not the kind of question that angry, threatened or defensive people will answer honestly, is it? :blush:

fls
23rd November 2008, 07:56 PM
My impression was that the opening post was an attempt to explain why skeptics are not accepting evidence that psi advocates consider very convincing - there must be something wrong with the skeptics' minds.

I don't think the argument was being used to actually support the argument that psi exists - I felt that was a 'given'... a hidden premise in the stated argument that skeptics have mental problems.

I'm not sure that the evidence is considered convincing as much as it is not as unconvincing as skeptics make out? After all, belief in psi seems to be based on our tendency to have confidence in our personal experiences, rather than something that one comes to through evidence (as opposed to our belief in black holes, for example). So it's more a matter of arguing someone out of having confidence in their personal experiences. Skeptics are already...well...skeptical about their personal experiences.

I agree. Did it make you feel angry, threatened or defensive about being a skeptic?

If you are telling us that believers feel that way when faced with hidden assumptions that psi doesn't exist, then a lack of those responses from skeptics may be the problem. If it doesn't make us feel angry, threatened or defensive, it may not occur to us that believers may legitimately feel that way when the tables are turned. When the negative characterization is directed at me, my first reaction is to think that the issue can sincerely be discussed and analyzed. Yet that rarely seems to be the response I get in return.

What I find fascinating is that if the arguments go the other way, if a skeptics phrasing seems to imply a 'given' that psi doesn't exist, and a hidden premise that those words indicate that believers have mental problems, objecting to those premises is treated far differently depending on the forum you are posting on.

I suspect that you are right. An emotional reaction isn't always anticipated.

That's not the kind of question that angry, threatened or defensive people will answer honestly, is it? :blush:

It may be that the truest answer to that question comes from what we project on to others. Your insistence that we are angry, threatened or defensive may be because any other response feels foreign to you? What we need here is something that breaks the symmetry - what you see in the mirror is not governed by the same laws that govern you.

Linda

JihadJane
23rd November 2008, 08:13 PM
Your insistence that we are angry, threatened or defensive may be because any other response feels foreign to you?
Linda

Is there a Skeptic group mindfeel, a group "we"?

Is it really us and them?

ImaginalDisc
23rd November 2008, 08:19 PM
Is there a Skeptic group mindfeel, a group "we"?

Is it really us and them?

English syntax and grammar essentially require the use of the word "we" in that sentence. It's the nominative plural of "I."

You're being evasive.

Incidentally, "mindfeel," is not a word. You may perhaps mean to say "groupthink," but even in that case you would be wrong in your implication.

fls
23rd November 2008, 08:29 PM
Is there a Skeptic group mindfeel, a group "we"?

Is it really us and them?

That's pretty cute.

I hope it was deliberate, even though I suspect it wasn't.

Linda

ImaginalDisc
23rd November 2008, 08:40 PM
That's pretty cute.

I hope it was deliberate, even though I suspect it wasn't.

Linda

You are more charitable than I am.

JihadJane
23rd November 2008, 09:24 PM
You're being evasive.



Evasive of what?


That's pretty cute.

I hope it was deliberate, even though I suspect it wasn't.

Linda

Thanks. It was both.


Are you claiming to be able to know the emotional states of your fellow posters?

I understood you to be suggesting that "skeptics" don't get "angry, threatened or defensive" in the same way that "believers" do. How could you know this?

Or were you being purely hypothetical?

Ersby
24th November 2008, 03:38 AM
The use of the term sceptic is still problematic, in my opinion. If we are talking about people who are sceptical of paranormal phenomena, then bringing in examples about global warming (as the opening post did) muddies the water. If you want to talk about scientific controversies in general, then the term “sceptic” becomes meaningless, since most people are sceptical of something.

I’ve been on pro-psi and pro-conspiracy-theory boards where people seemed to get very angry when their ideas are challenged. I’ve received ridicule and abuse, and seen mass bannings of “outsiders” (ie, people who didn’t follow the predominant view) so there are some people out there on the pro-psi/anti-establishment side who do seem frightened of debate.

And while I think this thread has been interesting, I think it suffers from ill-defined terms. If we’re talking about the psychology of people who are sceptical of the paranormal (a legitimate subject), then we should make efforts to stick to that quite strictly. Otherwise we’re talking about “the psychology of people who aren’t like me”, which is a bit futile.

fls
24th November 2008, 03:54 AM
Are you claiming to be able to know the emotional states of your fellow posters?

I was wondering why Limbo was claiming to know this. Or you, for that matter.

I understood you to be suggesting that "skeptics" don't get "angry, threatened or defensive" in the same way that "believers" do.

Yes, it is clear that that was your understanding. Yet how you came to that understanding is a mystery to me.

How could you know this?

Exactly.

Or were you being purely hypothetical?

I didn't start out that way, but I guess I must be, since the question put to Limbo and you (and now Beth) remains unanswered after 5 pages.

Linda

JihadJane
24th November 2008, 04:26 AM
I was wondering why Limbo was claiming to know this. Or you, for that matter.



Yes, it is clear that that was your understanding. Yet how you came to that understanding is a mystery to me.

It was this comment:

"Skeptics are already...well...skeptical about their personal experiences."

I don't see a lot of evidence of this on this forum.



Exactly.



I didn't start out that way, but I guess I must be, since the question put to Limbo and you (and now Beth) remains unanswered after 5 pages.

Linda

That's good. We are in almost total agreement.

fls
24th November 2008, 04:46 AM
It was this comment:

"Skeptics are already...well...skeptical about their personal experiences."

I don't see a lot of evidence of this on this forum.

Exactly. And from my perspective evidence abounds.

That's good. We are in almost total agreement.

I do try to make it a habit of agreeing with whatever someone has to say.

Linda

Beth
24th November 2008, 06:53 AM
I'm not sure that the evidence is considered convincing as much as it is not as unconvincing as skeptics make out? That's my assessment. I don't consider the current evidence convincing. I just don't assign as low a probability to hypothesis that it exists as most skeptics posting here do.


If you are telling us that believers feel that way when faced with hidden assumptions that psi doesn't exist, Many people do, yes.

then a lack of those responses from skeptics may be the problem. I haven't noticed a lack of that type of response from skeptics myself. :) Not every skeptic feels that way in response to such implicit assumptions, but then not every believer does either. However, when it occurs, civil conversation can become difficult.

I didn't start out that way, but I guess I must be, since the question put to Limbo and you (and now Beth) remains unanswered after 5 pages.

Linda

What question are you referring to here? I'm sorry, but I'm unable to infer which question you have put to me you feel is unanswered.

Moochie
24th November 2008, 07:02 AM
I have trouble understanding this. My observation is that lack of information is just as likely to eliminate fear as incite it.

Just as an anecdote: as a lifeguard, I'm afraid to go into certain bodies of water because I know the bottom is cluttered with sharp objects. Other swimmers have no fear of going in, because they don't know about the danger.

I'm having trouble making any sense out of your post.

Yes, I'm sorry about that. I was responding more to something going on in my head than this thread, specifically in relation to "things that go bump in the night," ie, all things woo, especially woo that may instill fear in the young and those likely to accept anecdotes as evidence.

I grew up in a family in which the parents had lived through the fascism of war-time Germany, a lot of which had been absorbed and used in the conduct of their own lives and child-rearing practices; ie, we were brought up to not question "authority," including and especially the authority of our parents. In that context, I had to fight to overcome fear.


M.

fls
24th November 2008, 07:30 AM
I haven't noticed a lack of that type of response from skeptics myself. :)

And yet, I struggle to identify any post from a skeptic in this thread that can be classed as "angry". The closest thing I see to "angry" is coming from JihadJane, but that seems to be a rhetorical device. The most overwhelming response from the skeptics seems to be puzzlement.

Not every skeptic feels that way in response to such implicit assumptions, but then not every believer does either. However, when it occurs, civil conversation can become difficult.

But how is that relevant to this conversation?

What question are you referring to here? I'm sorry, but I'm unable to infer which question you have put to me you feel is unanswered.

How do you know that your perception of the psychology of the skeptic is valid and reliable?

Linda

Beth
24th November 2008, 08:04 AM
And yet, I struggle to identify any post from a skeptic in this thread that can be classed as "angry". The closest thing I see to "angry" is coming from JihadJane, but that seems to be a rhetorical device. The most overwhelming response from the skeptics seems to be puzzlement. I was thinking of the more general situation of conversing with someone who conveys an implicit assumption that if you don't agree with their belief on the subject of psi, your mental health is suspect in their opinion and asked, since that had been identified as an issue by a particular poster, if that was how it had made that person feel.

But how is that relevant to this conversation? You indicated you did not feel that way. I was pointing out that just because you didn't have that reaction, it's not safe to assume that no else did. Likewise, it's not a good assumption that all believers have that reaction. It's simply, in my observation, a rather common reaction to that particular type of assumption regardless of who has made the assumption and who is reacting to it.

How do you know that your perception of the psychology of the skeptic is valid and reliable?

Linda I don't know that. I can only check my perceptions the same way I check my perceptions of anything else, by considering the sample I have access to (How much experience with individuals from that group have I had? Are those I interact with representative of the larger population?) and by comparing my perceptions with the perceptions of others. Depending on the answers to those questions, I decide how much validity to assign to my perceptions and form an opinion based both on those perceptions and the comments of others.

In this case, you might note that I haven't been making claims regarding the psychology of the skeptic, but posting about my perceptions. The reactions to my posts provide feedback that continues to shape my opinion on the matter.

fls
24th November 2008, 09:32 AM
You indicated you did not feel that way. I was pointing out that just because you didn't have that reaction, it's not safe to assume that no else did. Likewise, it's not a good assumption that all believers have that reaction. It's simply, in my observation, a rather common reaction to that particular type of assumption regardless of who has made the assumption and who is reacting to it.

Yes, that's my point. People behave in various ways and there's no particular reason to think that skeptics or believers are any different in that regard. That I didn't have that reaction doesn't mean that I assume that no one else did. It means that I assume others may not as well, regardless of whether they're a believer or not.

So how does any of this relate to the idea raised in this thread that it is the mindset of the skeptic that accounts for the unfair dismissal the strength of the evidence for psi?

Linda

Beth
24th November 2008, 10:06 AM
So how does any of this relate to the idea raised in this thread that it is the mindset of the skeptic that accounts for the unfair dismissal the strength of the evidence for psi?

Linda

If the dismissal of evidence is believed to been unfair, it's reasonable to conclude that the dismissal is due to the mindset of the person rather than the evidence and natural to explore what mindsets are causing people to dismiss evidence without sufficient cause. Skeptics do it all the time on this forum when conjecturing about why some people believe the things they do.

godless dave
24th November 2008, 10:40 AM
What makes you believe that believers are being dishonest rather than simply seeing things differently?

Because to believe those things they have to deliberately ignore facts.


Most of us hold ludicrous beliefs.

Speak for yourself.


What, for instance, isn't ridiculous about supporting an economic system based on usury and perpetual growth?

You've confused a belief with an action.

fls
24th November 2008, 12:14 PM
If the dismissal of evidence is believed to been unfair, it's reasonable to conclude that the dismissal is due to the mindset of the person rather than the evidence and natural to explore what mindsets are causing people to dismiss evidence without sufficient cause. Skeptics do it all the time on this forum when conjecturing about why some people believe the things they do.

I'm just disappointed that addressing these points (is the dismissal of evidence unfair? if so, could it be due to mindset? what is the mindset? is that sufficient to explain the dismissal?) with "he was mean to me" stories is considered reasonable.

Linda

Beth
24th November 2008, 12:25 PM
I'm just disappointed that addressing these points (is the dismissal of evidence unfair? if so, could it be due to mindset? what is the mindset? is that sufficient to explain the dismissal?) with "he was mean to me" stories is considered reasonable.

Linda Hmm. That's not what I said. Did you interpret my comments that way or were you referring to someone else?

blutoski
24th November 2008, 12:44 PM
I agree. Did it make you feel angry, threatened or defensive about being a skeptic?

Not really. It made me feel sad for the author.



What I find fascinating is that if the arguments go the other way, if a skeptics phrasing seems to imply a 'given' that psi doesn't exist, and a hidden premise that those words indicate that believers have mental problems, objecting to those premises is treated far differently depending on the forum you are posting on.

Well, what do web forums have to do with anything? Why would a serious researcher care?

Beth
24th November 2008, 12:49 PM
Well, what do web forums have to do with anything? Why would a serious researcher care?

I'm sorry, were we discussing serious research here? I haven't seen any yet.

fls
24th November 2008, 12:58 PM
Hmm. That's not what I said. Did you interpret my comments that way or were you referring to someone else?

I don't think that's what you said. Your contribution has been more along the lines of providing your personal perspective. I don't think that's a reasonable way to address the ideas raised in the OP either (since it was referring to serious inquiries, rather than discussions on internet forums), but (from what I gleaned from your response) I don't think your posts were meant to address the topic of this thread.

Linda

Beth
24th November 2008, 01:01 PM
I don't think that's what you said. Your contribution has been more along the lines of providing your personal perspective. I don't think that's a reasonable way to address the ideas raised in the OP either (since it was referring to serious inquiries, rather than discussions on internet forums), but (from what I gleaned from your response) I don't think your posts were meant to address the topic of this thread.

Linda


Since there isn't any actual research to discuss, I think personal perspective is the only way to address the topic of this thread.

blutoski
24th November 2008, 01:03 PM
I'm sorry, were we discussing serious research here? I haven't seen any yet.

Maybe if you read the opening post? The poster appears to be bringing examples from James Randi, Martin Gardner, Carl Sagan and Ray Hyman. These are serious researchers.

Later, some other posters started talking about web forums. I'm not sure why. Is it some profound discovery that Internet forums are a social activity and awash with pointless discussions?

blutoski
24th November 2008, 01:05 PM
Since there isn't any actual research to discuss, I think personal perspective is the only way to address the topic of this thread.

So, you agree with the skeptics that the original poster has no grounds to support his statements? ie: you are skeptical of his claim?

Beth
24th November 2008, 01:09 PM
Maybe if you read the opening post? The poster appears to be bringing examples from James Randi, Martin Gardner, Carl Sagan and Ray Hyman. These are serious researchers. It was not my impression that the OP was claiming those folks had done serious research on the topic of the psychology of the skeptic. I thought they were brought up as examples of skeptics to illustrate the mindset attributed to skeptics. That's a bit different now isn't it?

Later, some other posters started talking about web forums. I'm not sure why. Is it some profound discovery that Internet forums are a social activity and awash with pointless discussions? I think they are simply easily accessable respositories of the examples of the behaviors being discussed and as representative a sample as we are likely to obtain without having access to actual research which isn't available because it hasn't been done. In short, they provide a larger and somewhat more representative sample that that of the afformentioned prominent skeptics.

fls
24th November 2008, 01:13 PM
I'm sorry, were we discussing serious research here? I haven't seen any yet.

That's kind of a mean thing to say about Brian Josephson, Dean Radin, and the authors of the other studies that have been referenced. It's also kind of mean to Limbo. At least the rest of us didn't dismiss the lecture she/he provided out-of-hand, but I have to admit that I didn't expect you to be rude about it.

Linda

fls
24th November 2008, 01:16 PM
Since there isn't any actual research to discuss, I think personal perspective is the only way to address the topic of this thread.

Huh?

By which I mean Are You *********** Serious?

Linda

Beth
24th November 2008, 01:18 PM
So, you agree with the skeptics that the original poster has no grounds to support his statements? ie: you are skeptical of his claim?


I am skeptical of his claim, but I would disagree that he has no grounds to support his statements. He has his observations, but they are anecdotal in nature and do not constitute a set of data which warrants the conclusion he has drawn from them. At the same time, I cannot say definitely that he is wrong either. Do you disagree with this assessment?

Beth
24th November 2008, 01:31 PM
That's kind of a mean thing to say about Brian Josephson, Dean Radin, and the authors of the other studies that have been referenced. It's also kind of mean to Limbo. At least the rest of us didn't dismiss the lecture she/he provided out-of-hand, but I have to admit that I didn't expect you to be rude about it.

Linda

I was just thinking of Limbo's blog, which was I did not take to be research but merely a blog airing his opinion and ideas. If I was mistaken about that, my apologies to Limbo. I don't recall any actual research papers having been discussed in this thread; I thought the converstation had been solely about Limbo's blog. Has research on the psychology of the skeptic from the others been discussed and I've inadvertantly skipped over the comments and links about their research? If so, my apologies.

Beth
24th November 2008, 01:49 PM
Huh?

By which I mean Are You *********** Serious?

Linda


What actual research on the psychology of the skeptic are you wanting to discuss?

fls
24th November 2008, 01:52 PM
I was just thinking of Limbo's blog, which was I did not take to be research but merely a blog airing his opinion and ideas.

The "blog" referred to in the opening post was the transcript of a lecture given at a Society for Psychical Research study day. The speaker, Robert McLuhan (I don't know if that's Limbo), lectures in the company of serious researchers like Rupert Sheldrake. It seems to me that it should be given at least some consideration.

If I was mistaken about that, my apologies to Limbo. I don't recall any actual research papers having been discussed in this thread; I thought the converstation had been solely about Limbo's blog. Has research on the psychology of the skeptic from the others been discussed and I've inadvertantly skipped over the comments and links about their research?

It looks like it.

Linda

fls
24th November 2008, 01:55 PM
What actual research on the psychology of the skeptic are you wanting to discuss?

Nah, I like your original idea. Why bother looking up research if everyone else is happy pulling stuff out of their ass?

Linda

blutoski
24th November 2008, 02:07 PM
It was not my impression that the OP was claiming those folks had done serious research on the topic of the psychology of the skeptic. I thought they were brought up as examples of skeptics to illustrate the mindset attributed to skeptics. That's a bit different now isn't it?

Different than what? I was talking about the skeptics he was talking about. You were talking about web forums. I think you've confirmed what I said above.




I think they are simply easily accessable respositories of the examples of the behaviors being discussed and as representative a sample as we are likely to obtain without having access to actual research which isn't available because it hasn't been done. In short, they provide a larger and somewhat more representative sample that that of the afformentioned prominent skeptics.

Why would you think that? Is everybody on the internet a skeptic? Is Old Bob a skeptic just because he rants at JREF Forums? Do you understand even the basics of psychological surveys? (specifically, self-identification is a terrible way to identify a category's membership)

blutoski
24th November 2008, 02:18 PM
I am skeptical of his claim, but I would disagree that he has no grounds to support his statements. He has his observations, but they are anecdotal in nature and do not constitute a set of data which warrants the conclusion he has drawn from them. At the same time, I cannot say definitely that he is wrong either. Do you disagree with this assessment?

I think this is exactly much what I said, although I did point out that the observations were also consistent with these traits being 'human' rather than limited to 'skeptics'. His essay appeared to imply that these traits were not involved, say, in his own motivations to write such a polemic. I wondered if/why the author excluded himself from such introspection.

I went further to apply critical thinking, and felt we had some clear-cut examples of hasty generalization and confirmation bias.

I also provided some ideas for actually finding out whether the hypothesis is actually true. I have an interest in determining the underlying reality.

Beth
24th November 2008, 02:26 PM
The "blog" referred to in the opening post was the transcript of a lecture given at a Society for Psychical Research study day. The speaker, Robert McLuhan (I don't know if that's Limbo), lectures in the company of serious researchers like Rupert Sheldrake. It seems to me that it should be given at least some consideration.

I'm sorry, but simply because a professional gives a lecture that does not automatically confer the title of 'research' to everything they might discuss. Sometimes, they are merely lecturing regarding their observations, experiences and opinion about a particular subject rather than about research they've conducted on the subject. Dawkins certainly does it frequently with regard to religion, but I haven't noticed anyone claiming that constitutes legimate research he has done on religious beliefs and/or religion.

My reading of the transcript was that it was regarding an area he had been making observations about in tandem with other areas he was researching, but had not (yet?) done a more disciplined evaluation of such observations that might accurately be termed research. Perhaps I was overly hasty in my reading of it though. Was there some evidence presented there you considered to be legitimate research on the subject and wished to discuss?

Nah, I like your original idea. Why bother looking up research if everyone else is happy pulling stuff out of their ass?

Linda

I would be more than happy to discuss actual research. Care to point me towards any? I notice that you haven't done so yet. At any rate, if no links appear from here on out I'll presume that you would prefer to simply continue discussing opinions pulled out of various person's rear ends. I'll no longer assume that there simply isn't any of the more rigorous evidence that the term 'research' is usually referring to on this forum on the subject of 'skeptics psychology'.

Beth
24th November 2008, 02:36 PM
I think this is exactly much what I said, although I did point out that the observations were also consistent with these traits being 'human' rather than limited to 'skeptics'. We are not in disagreement then. :)

fls
24th November 2008, 02:52 PM
I'm sorry, but simply because a professional gives a lecture that does not automatically confer the title of 'research' to everything they might discuss. Sometimes, they are merely lecturing regarding their observations, experiences and opinion about a particular subject rather than about research they've conducted on the subject. Dawkins certainly does it frequently with regard to religion, but I haven't noticed anyone claiming that constitutes legimate research he has done on religious beliefs and/or religion.

I didn't mean to imply that the research was contained in the opening post, only that his opinion may be somewhat more informed than some anonymous blogger.

My reading of the transcript was that it was regarding an area he had been making observations about in tandem with other areas he was researching, but had not (yet?) done a more disciplined evaluation of such observations that might accurately be termed research. Perhaps I was overly hasty in my reading of it though. Was there some evidence presented there you considered to be legitimate research on the subject and wished to discuss?

The references to specific research papers were in subsequent posts from various posters including Limbo (and myself).

I would be more than happy to discuss actual research. Care to point me towards any? I notice that you haven't done so yet.

You'd hardly know if I had, though, since you haven't read through the thread.

At any rate, if no links appear from here on out I'll presume that you would prefer to simply continue discussing opinions pulled out of various person's rear ends.

That was supposed to be a joke - I used the humorous device of stating the opposite of what I actually meant.

I thought "ass" would get auto-censored, though.

I'll no longer assume that there simply isn't any of the rigorous evidence that the term 'research' is usually referring to on this forum on the subject of 'skeptics psychology'.

I can't tell what you're trying to say - it doesn't seem to make sense once I sort out all the negatives, but I don't always do very well with those.

Linda

blutoski
24th November 2008, 02:54 PM
We are not in disagreement then. :)

Not about the original post.

I was in disagreement with your suggestion that the original poster's thesis was somehow bolstered by activity in online forums. I think that's misguided.

Beth
24th November 2008, 02:56 PM
It was not my impression that the OP was claiming those folks had done serious research on the topic of the psychology of the skeptic. I thought they were brought up as examples of skeptics to illustrate the mindset attributed to skeptics. That's a bit different now isn't it?

Different than what? I was talking about the skeptics he was talking about. You were talking about web forums. I think you've confirmed what I said above.

You had asked why a serious researcher would care to which I responded, somewhat flippantly, "were we discussing serious research here?" You responded saying those folks are serious researchers but since those folks have not done serious research on the topic under discussion I felt that didn't constitute discussion of serious research regarding the psychology of the skeptic.

I think they are simply easily accessable respositories of the examples of the behaviors being discussed and as representative a sample as we are likely to obtain without having access to actual research which isn't available because it hasn't been done. In short, they provide a larger and somewhat more representative sample that that of the afformentioned prominent skeptics.

Why would you think that? Because there are more than 4 people claiming to be skeptics on the internet and most of them are not famous. :)

Is everybody on the internet a skeptic? I don't think so. Did you assume I did? Is Old Bob a skeptic just because he rants at JREF Forums? No. It depends on what he's ranting about. Plenty of non-skeptics go on rants here too. :) However, some rants are certainly sufficient to make it clear their authors self-identify as skeptics. Do you understand even the basics of psychological surveys? (specifically, self-identification is a terrible way to identify a category's membership) I don't disagree, but can you point me towards some pyschological surveys that have attempted to identify skeptics in a more rigorous and objective manner? If not, I'll have to settle for self-identification until a better method has been developed.

Beth
24th November 2008, 03:04 PM
Not about the original post.

I was in disagreement with your suggestion that the original poster's thesis was somehow bolstered by activity in online forums. I think that's misguided.

<shrug>. Where else is some one who isn't involved in the paranormal research going to observe skeptics and their reactions? I wouldn't argue it's convincing - too many problems with bias, non-representative sample, etc. - but if observations of such self-identified skeptics were at odds with his hypothesis, it would be evidence against his point. Since my assessment of my observations is that they don't contradict his hypothesis, logically it can be considered to be weak support.

blutoski
24th November 2008, 03:08 PM
You had asked why a serious researcher would care to which I responded, somewhat flippantly, "were we discussing serious research here?" You responded saying those folks are serious researchers but since those folks have not done serious research on the topic under discussion I felt that didn't constitute discussion of serious research regarding the psychology of the skeptic.

I asked why a serious researcher would care about online forums.

The author of the OP was a serious researcher. His original audience were serious researchers, not an online forum, and the essay was written for them. The skeptics he described were serious researchers. In retrospect, your response was flippant; but I had interpreted it to simply mean you had not read the thread and didn't understand its purpose. I'm still not convinced I was wrong about that.




Because there are more than 4 people claiming to be skeptics on the internet and most of them are not famous. :)

"on the internet..." vague. Which is my criticism. Shoot: the JREF Forum is frickin anonymous. I have no idea why anybody would consider it a credible sample of a real-world community.





I don't think so. Did you assume I did? No. It depends on what he's ranting about. Plenty of non-skeptics go on rants here too. :) However, some rants are certainly sufficient to make it clear their authors self-identify as skeptics.

Spoiler alert: everybody self-idenfies as a skeptic. Every quack I' ve ever debated, every creationist, every dowser, every ghost hunter... every online forum is filled with self-identified skeptics.





I don't disagree, but can you point me towards some pyschological surveys that have attempted to identify skeptics in a more rigorous and objective manner? If not, I'll have to settle for self-identification until a better method has been developed.

I think a standard method is to use the community's standard. The original poster was speaking to people who have interacted with these specific individuals because they accept that they are authentic skeptics, not because they are 'famous'.

I'm pretty confident that the psi advocates like Sheldrake would not give this forum the time of day.

blutoski
24th November 2008, 03:10 PM
<shrug>. Where else is some one who isn't involved in the paranormal research going to observe skeptics and their reactions? I wouldn't argue it's convincing - too many problems with bias, non-representative sample, etc. - but if observations of such self-identified skeptics were at odds with his hypothesis, it would be evidence against his point. Since my assessment of my observations is that they don't contradict his hypothesis, logically it can be considered to be weak support.

Very weak support. As is all confirmation bias.

The thesis isn't that skeptics think this way, but that this is a skeptical way of thinking. The null hypothesis is that it is a human way of thinking.

A disconfirmation attempt would be to survey non-skeptical forums to see if this behavior is demonstrated elsewhere. Finding these characteristics in other fora would disconfirm the hypothesis that it is a skeptical artefact.

Beth
24th November 2008, 03:23 PM
I didn't mean to imply that the research was contained in the opening post, only that his opinion may be somewhat more informed than some anonymous blogger.

The references to specific research papers were in subsequent posts from various posters including Limbo (and myself). I've scanned through this entire thread and clicked on all the links you've posted. I didn't see anything that constituted research on the psychology of the skeptic. They all appeared to be opinion pieces to me. Have the standards for what constitutes research changed or have I misinterpreted one or more of those articles? I think Ersby posted the closest thing to actual research on the subject, but it dealt with believers rather than skeptics. If you disagree with this assessment of the links posted, you'll need to point out to me the article previously linked to that you consider to be research in the area of skeptical pyschology.

I can't tell what you're trying to say - it doesn't seem to make sense once I sort out all the negatives, but I don't always do very well with those.

Linda

I was saying that you have convinced me I was wrong. I will now assume that some research on the subject of the pyschology of the skeptic actually exists (rather than assuming it doesn't exist simply because I'm not aware of it and haven't seen any links or references to such research posted in this thread). I await your posting of the link or reference you have in mind so that we can discuss it rather than simply anecdotes, personal opinions and experiences.

fls
24th November 2008, 04:40 PM
I've scanned through this entire thread and clicked on all the links you've posted. I didn't see anything that constituted research on the psychology of the skeptic.

I think we agree on that - that specific research, while quoted as though it supports various conclusions about how skeptics behave, doesn't really distinguish skeptics from humans or isn't particularly relevant to the issue.

They all appeared to be opinion pieces to me. Have the standards for what constitutes research changed or have I misinterpreted one or more of those articles?

Perhaps you were in too much of a rush? I linked to an experiment. And there were references to experiments in some of the other articles. As far as I know, performing experiments and reporting on the results is considered research?

I think Ersby posted the closest thing to actual research on the subject, but it dealt with believers rather than skeptics. If you disagree with this assessment of the links posted, you'll need to point out to me the article previously linked to that you consider to be research in the area of skeptical pyschology.

I'm not quite sure what the nature of your complaint is. I agree that the research that was linked to directly, or the research that was referenced in the various articles does not actually support the opinions that were presented in the various articles, as somehow specific to skeptics.

I was saying that you have convinced me I was wrong. I will now assume that some research on the subject of the pyschology of the skeptic actually exists (rather than assuming it doesn't exist simply because I'm not aware of it and haven't seen any links or references to such research posted in this thread).

Umm...I'm not sure why you are making these assumptions (regardless of the direction they fall) in the first place, in the absence of knowledge. All I'm suggesting is that it is useful to look for this information in order to address the issues that were brought up in the OP.

I await your posting of the link or reference you have in mind so that we can discuss it rather than simply anecdotes, personal opinions and experiences.

I don't have a reference in mind, since it's not my argument. I guess you missed it, but I actually do not agree with the conclusions drawn in the OP. :)

Linda

Beth
25th November 2008, 11:24 AM
I think we agree on that - that specific research, while quoted as though it supports various conclusions about how skeptics behave, doesn't really distinguish skeptics from humans or isn't particularly relevant to the issue. Okay. That was all I was saying originally, albeit rather flippantly. I'll try harder to avoid humor in posts since it always seems to get me trouble. This time was no exception. I should have been more specific and clarified that I felt there was no relevant research to discuss.

Perhaps you were in too much of a rush? I linked to an experiment. And there were references to experiments in some of the other articles. As far as I know, performing experiments and reporting on the results is considered research? Perhaps I was too hasty. But you had said I owed an apology to Brian Josephson, Dean Radin, Limbo and others. Now, it seems that you agree most of what has been linked is not research and the research that has been posted isn't revelant. Perhaps you were a bit hasty too?
I don't have a reference in mind, since it's not my argument. I guess you missed it, but I actually do not agree with the conclusions drawn in the OP. :) I didn't miss it. I was just in contrary mood yesterday and didn't mind arguing about trivialities. After you charactorized my posts in this thread with the following comment: "Why bother looking up research if everyone else is happy pulling stuff out of their ass?", I found it amusing to watch (listen?) to you insist that there had been research posted and we should discuss it rather than our own opinions/observations when doing so would require classifing opinion pieces that you didn't agree with as research or discussing irrelevant research. Now that we've established that neither of us is aware of any pertinant research, can we discuss opinions and personal perspectives without insults?

I'm not quite sure what the nature of your complaint is. I agree that the research that was linked to directly, or the research that was referenced in the various articles does not actually support the opinions that were presented in the various articles, as somehow specific to skeptics. My complaint? It was your complaint! I had said there was no research to discuss and you jumped all over me about it. Then when I make my mea culpas and ask you what specific research you want to discuss, you agree that there is no relevant research to discuss. You must have been in as contrary a mood yesterday as I was. :D

Beth
25th November 2008, 12:02 PM
I asked why a serious researcher would care about online forums. . Depends on the researcher and what they are researching. Some serious researchers do use the internet as a cost-effective way of collecting information on groups of people. With proper controls, it can be useful.
The author of the OP was a serious researcher. His original audience were serious researchers, not an online forum, and the essay was written for them. The skeptics he described were serious researchers. In retrospect, your response was flippant; but I had interpreted it to simply mean you had not read the thread and didn't understand its purpose. I'm still not convinced I was wrong about that. No, I’ve read the thread. I was just being flippant. I’ll try harder to avoid any attempts at humor in the future.
"on the internet..." vague. Which is my criticism. Shoot: the JREF Forum is frickin anonymous. I have no idea why anybody would consider it a credible sample of a real-world community. Who was claiming it was a credible sample of a real world community? I said it was a better sample than four famous skeptics, a sample which you appeared to take seriously. Do you disagree?

I think a standard method is to use the community's standard. Have you read through any threads on what constitutes a ‘true skeptic’. There is no community standard. Instead, there is some fairly intense disagreement over things like whether someone who believes in god can be a skeptic. At the moment, community standards are not a viable method for distinguishing skeptics from non-skeptics.
The original poster was speaking to people who have interacted with these specific individuals because they accept that they are authentic skeptics, not because they are 'famous'. I think that being famous is what would allow people to accept them as ‘authentic skeptics’. However, you have a valid point. I hadn’t considered it from the perspective of other people agreeing that they are skeptics.

The thesis isn't that skeptics think this way, but that this is a skeptical way of thinking. The null hypothesis is that it is a human way of thinking.

Seems to me you’re splitting a rather fine hair here. Would not a skeptical way of thinking be the way skeptics think?

A disconfirmation attempt would be to survey non-skeptical forums to see if this behavior is demonstrated elsewhere. Finding these characteristics in other fora would disconfirm the hypothesis that it is a skeptical artefact.
Only if the hypothesis was that it is a unique artifact of skeptical thinking. I’m not sure I would agree that was part of the hypothesis, though I’ll certainly agree that it isn’t unique to skeptics.

fls
25th November 2008, 12:31 PM
Okay. That was all I was saying originally, albeit rather flippantly. I'll try harder to avoid humor in posts since it always seems to get me trouble. This time was no exception. I should have been more specific and clarified that I felt there was no relevant research to discuss.
Perhaps I was too hasty. But you had said I owed an apology to Brian Josephson, Dean Radin, Limbo and others. Now, it seems that you agree most of what has been linked is not research and the research that has been posted isn't revelant. Perhaps you were a bit hasty too? I didn't miss it. I was just in contrary mood yesterday and didn't mind arguing about trivialities. After you charactorized my posts in this thread with the following comment: "Why bother looking up research if everyone else is happy pulling stuff out of their ass?", I found it amusing to watch (listen?) to you insist that there had been research posted and we should discuss it rather than our own opinions/observations when doing so would require classifing opinion pieces that you didn't agree with as research or discussing irrelevant research. Now that we've established that neither of us is aware of any pertinant research, can we discuss opinions and personal perspectives without insults?
My complaint? It was your complaint! I had said there was no research to discuss and you jumped all over me about it. Then when I make my mea culpas and ask you what specific research you want to discuss, you agree that there is no relevant research to discuss. You must have been in as contrary a mood yesterday as I was. :D

I realized that you didn't understand what the thread was about (although not at first) and that you were being flippant, but since we had been talking about the opinions of serious researchers, I didn't feel like letting the opportunity to give you a hard time pass. :) Just because I didn't agree that they had made their case, after I had read their opinions and the research they used to support their opinions, doesn't mean that it would have been reasonable for me to dismiss it without giving it any consideration beforehand. It also doesn't mean that it is reasonable for me to default to a position of ignorance.

Regardless of how serious I was, my objection stands. The uninformed opinions and personal perspectives that you and JihadJane think should form the basis of our discussion I consider useless, as would any serious researcher. I still find it difficult to reconcile your participation in an academic program with your willingness to disregard more learned opinions and a disinterest in seeking the relevant research yourself.

I didn't say that I wasn't aware of any pertinent research. I said the pertinent research does not support their supposition.

Linda

Beth
25th November 2008, 01:45 PM
I realized that you didn't understand what the thread was about (although not at first) and that you were being flippant, but since we had been talking about the opinions of serious researchers, I didn't feel like letting the opportunity to give you a hard time pass. :) Just because I didn't agree that they had made their case, after I had read their opinions and the research they used to support their opinions, doesn't mean that it would have been reasonable for me to dismiss it without giving it any consideration beforehand. It also doesn't mean that it is reasonable for me to default to a position of ignorance. I did read their essays. Further, I don't dismiss their opinions, I simply don't consider their essays to be research. Do you?

Regardless of how serious I was, my objection stands. The uninformed opinions and personal perspectives that you and JihadJane think should form the basis of our discussion I consider useless, as would any serious researcher.

I still find it difficult to reconcile your participation in an academic program with your willingness to disregard more learned opinions and a disinterest in seeking the relevant research yourself. Whoa their Nellie. First of all, who is disregarding their learned opinions? Seems to me that would be you and a few others posting here rather than myself. (I can't speak for Jihad Jane.) After all, I have not assumed their opinion is incorrect, as others here have nor have I charactorized their opinions as "pulled out of their ass". I'm only saying that such essays do not qualify as research.

Second, why do you assume I have a disinterest in seeking out the relevant research? What relevant research have you sought out and linked to in this thread? None IMO. Should I assume that you have a disinterest in seeking out the relevant research?

Finally, are you claiming to be a participating in this conversation as a serious researcher of skepics and skeptical thinking? I'm not. I'm just conversing to amuse myself. Why should I apply the same standards I would to doing academic research to participating in an internet conversation? More to the point, why are you applying that standard to me in this forum and then denigrating my research capabilities based on that? Seems rather harsh.


I didn't say that I wasn't aware of any pertinent research. I said the pertinent research does not support their supposition.
Linda
If you are aware of relevant research, why haven't you posted the links to it? I keep asking you what research you think is relevant, but you have yet to reference any. You linked early in the thread to "Gorilla's in our midst" but turn around say it doesn't support their supposition. Do you consider that research relevant to the OP? If so, is any particularly reason why you couldn't have just said so when I first asked what research you wanted to discuss? If that isn't the research you are thinking of, why haven't you referenced what you do consider relevant. After all, I've asked you to do so several times now and I can't help but notice a severe lack of any specific research identified to discuss. Instead, you have chosen instead to disparage my contributions as unworthy.

fls
25th November 2008, 02:29 PM
I did read their essays. Further, I don't dismiss their opinions, I simply don't consider their essays to be research. Do you?

Nobody claimed they were.

If you don't dismiss their opinions, then why are you not interested in discussing theirs in favour of your own?

Whoa their Nellie. First of all, who is disregarding their learned opinions?

You have stated specifically, several times, that your personal perspective is what you wish to discuss.

Seems to me that would be you and a few others posting here rather than myself. (I can't speak for Jihad Jane.) After all, I have not assumed their opinion is incorrect, as others here have nor have I charactorized their opinions as "pulled out of their ass". I'm only saying that such essays do not qualify as research.

But nobody said otherwise. It wasn't their opinion that I characterized as "pulled out of their ass".

Second, why do you assume I have a disinterest in seeking out the relevant research?

Because you stated several times that you don't know whether there is any relevant research.

What relevant research have you sought out and linked to in this thread? None IMO. Should I assume that you have a disinterest in seeking out the relevant research?

No, because I have not stated that personal perspective is the only way to address the topic of this thread.

Finally, are you claiming to be a participating in this conversation as a serious researcher of skepics and skeptical thinking?

No. I'm stating that the thread was initiated to consider the words of serious researchers in the field of parapsychology.

I'm not. I'm just conversing to amuse myself. Why should I apply the same standards I would to doing academic research to participating in an internet conversation? More to the point, why are you applying that standard to me in this forum and then denigrating my research capabilities based on that? Seems rather harsh.

I realize that. To be honest, it didn't really occur to me to apply different standards towards answering my questions depending upon who was listening in. If you do that, then my criticism is unwarranted.

If you are aware of relevant research, why haven't you posted the links to it?

I'm not aware of any research that supports the idea that skeptics are uniquely dismissive or that parapsychologists think differently from other humans. As I stated before, the relevant research I have read does not support their supposition. I don't have anything to offer in support of their premise - not because I haven't looked, but because I have looked and haven't found anything. I don't think my search is exhaustive, but on the other hand, if there was anything, you'd think the parapsychologists would have used it.

I keep asking you what research you think is relevant, but you have yet to reference any. You linked early in the thread to "Gorilla's in our midst" but turn around say it doesn't support their supposition. Do you consider that research relevant to the OP?

Yes. It is an example of the research that Dean Radin uses to conclude that skeptics are unreasonable.

If so, is any particularly reason why you couldn't have just said so when I first asked what research you wanted to discuss?

I didn't realize that you hadn't read the thread and the articles when you first asked.

If that isn't the research you are thinking of, why haven't you referenced what you do consider relevant. After all, I've asked you to do so several times now and I can't help but notice a severe lack of any specific research identified to discuss. Instead, you have chosen instead to disparage my contributions as unworthy.

I have also noticed a lack of research. But I honestly don't think it's reasonable to fill that lack with my own personal perspective. Maybe that's what makes me a skeptic?

Linda

Limbo
25th November 2008, 04:18 PM
The speaker, Robert McLuhan (I don't know if that's Limbo)

Nope. FYI.

Beth
25th November 2008, 05:35 PM
Linda,

I will try to respond to the bulk of this post via PM later. It's really off topic to discuss your disparagement of me in this thread.


If you don't dismiss their opinions, then why are you not interested in discussing theirs in favour of your own? Excuse me, but I have not suggesting discussing personal perspectives on this thread in order to pontificate about my own but to listen to other peoples. I have read the essays; I did at the start. I had previously seen the Gorilla's in the midst and Ersby's links, so I didn't bother to read them through this time around. When I said I was unaware of any relevant research, that did not imply I was unaware of those studies. I simply didn't consider them to be relevant research to the topic.

I didn't assume this thread was to critique about the opinions of their authors, but to discuss the subject of those opinions. Having read the essays, I now know their opinions. What I don't know are the opinions of people like you or Limbo or blutoski. Did you notice that I have Not giveN my opinion unless directly asked? I've only volunteered observations and I've tried to word those in value neutral terms. Did it not occur to you that I might want to listen to your (and others) actual opinions on the subject rather than just your critique of sometone else's?

Is that really such an inappropriate expection on a forum like this?

fls
25th November 2008, 08:36 PM
Linda,

I will try to respond to the bulk of this post via PM later. It's really off topic to discuss your disparagement of me in this thread.

You are right. This thread is for the disparagement of skeptics only! :)

I didn't assume this thread was to critique about the opinions of their authors, but to discuss the subject of those opinions. Having read the essays, I now know their opinions. What I don't know are the opinions of people like you or Limbo or blutoski. Did you notice that I have Not giveN my opinion unless directly asked? I've only volunteered observations and I've tried to word those in value neutral terms. Did it not occur to you that I might want to listen to your (and others) actual opinions on the subject rather than just your critique of sometone else's?

Is that really such an inappropriate expection on a forum like this?

I don't think you'll suffer from a shortage of material for a more informal inquiry here, regardless of whether or not we weigh in.

Linda

Ersby
26th November 2008, 12:56 AM
Reading the opening post again I think the implication is clear that he thinks that the psychology he’s describing is a feature of “sceptics”, although it is not clear what he means by “sceptic”. He seems to be talking about scepticism with regards to the paranormal, but gives two examples of scepticism from other fields of science.

About the differences between sceptics and believers, there’s been some research into whether believers somehow misjudge probabilities of chance events. Then I found this (non-parapsychology paper)

“Thinking About Low-Probability Events”, Koehler, Macchi, 2004

The way people respond to the chance that an unlikely event will occur depends on how the event is described. We propose that people attach more weight to unlikely events when they can easily generate or imagine examples in which the event has occurred or will occur than when they cannot.”

And that idea about our ability to “generate or imagine examples” effecting how we judge the possibility of events reminded me of the finding from the paper I mentioned to ages ago about believers greater capacity for linking unrelated items.

Ersby
26th November 2008, 01:59 AM
I found a paper by Blackmore detailing a questionnaire sent to sceptics and parapsychologists (not necessarily two exclusive groups, but treated as such in this paper). It’s called “What do we really think?” and I expect it’s on her site. It dates from 1988.

Things that pertain to the discussion here are (NB, this is out of 38 replies, 18 parapsychologists, 17 skeptics, 3 unclassified):

“Although S[keptic]s are often accused of not knowing the literature there was no significant difference in the amount the two groups claimed to have read. There was, however, a big difference in what they read. Not surprisingly P[arapsychologist]s had read far more of the Journal of Parapsychology [...] and JSPR [...] and Ss far more of Skeptical Inquirer”

How people first became interested in parapsychology was broadly the same for both groups (reading, intellectual interest) except for...

“Ps were more likely to have become interested through personal experience (other than conjuring) [...] and Ss by performing as a magician or conjuror.”

When answering “Does psi exist?”, 72% of Ps said yes and none said no. For the sceptics, 35% said no, none said yes (the rest gave qualified answers).

For the question “What would make you change your mind?” 82% of sceptics said experimental results and 18% talked about a better theory. Meanwhile 27% of parapsychologists (ie, five people) said nothing could make them change their mind. 22% said experimental results, and another 22% said evidence of fraud.

For the question “How have your beliefs changed during the period of your interest in psi?”

[…] “only one person (P) claimed it had increased while many (6P 9S) said it had decreased. [...] Several respondents (7P 3S 2U) said their beliefs had become more complex as time went on.

Lastly, this observation is interesting...

“To try and discover whether there is any natural grouping on the basis of the answers given to the questions a cluster analysis was performed (using GENSTAT, hierarchical clusters). [...] When question 10 [ie, Does psi exist?] was excluded no clear groupings emerged. In other words, apart from the question of belief in psi, the respondents do not fall naturally into separate groups.”

fls
26th November 2008, 03:00 AM
Reading the opening post again I think the implication is clear that he thinks that the psychology he’s describing is a feature of “sceptics”, although it is not clear what he means by “sceptic”. He seems to be talking about scepticism with regards to the paranormal, but gives two examples of scepticism from other fields of science.

I had trouble sorting that out as well. It wasn't just examples of scepticism from other fields, but scepticism with respect to ideas that eventually became well-established. I don't know if he's suggesting that there's some way to tell beforehand, whether he thinks paranormal phenomena are equally well-established, or whether it was just happenstance.

About the differences between sceptics and believers, there’s been some research into whether believers somehow misjudge probabilities of chance events. Then I found this (non-parapsychology paper)

“Thinking About Low-Probability Events”, Koehler, Macchi, 2004

The way people respond to the chance that an unlikely event will occur depends on how the event is described. We propose that people attach more weight to unlikely events when they can easily generate or imagine examples in which the event has occurred or will occur than when they cannot.”

And that idea about our ability to “generate or imagine examples” effecting how we judge the possibility of events reminded me of the finding from the paper I mentioned to ages ago about believers greater capacity for linking unrelated items.

That's a very interesting connection you've made.

Linda

Cuddles
26th November 2008, 04:41 AM
Reading the opening post again I think the implication is clear that he thinks that the psychology he’s describing is a feature of “sceptics”, although it is not clear what he means by “sceptic”. He seems to be talking about scepticism with regards to the paranormal, but gives two examples of scepticism from other fields of science.

This is pretty standard behaviour, it's really just a variation of the Galileo gambit. "They laughed at Galileo and he was right, therefore I must be right because they laugh at me." In this case, Limbo is taking the usual dishonest position of saying, to paraphrase, "Skeptics doubted X and it turned out to be true, therefore all skeptics are big meanies who dismiss everything out of hand.". Which of course completely misses the point of what skepticism actually is. The whole OP was just yet another repetition of the same boring fallacies that are trotted out every time a believer hears the word "skeptic". The only real difference between Limbo and all the ranting nutjobs who demand we must believe in their chosen woo is that he is actually literate. But while his posts are at least coherent, they really have no more content.

Limbo
26th November 2008, 03:06 PM
Has anyone read this:

Parapsychology and the Skeptics (http://www.amazon.com/Parapsychology-Skeptics-Scientific-Argument-Existence/dp/1585011088)

Here are some excerpts:

http://www.parapsychologyandtheskeptics.com/P&Ssamples.pdf

An interview with the author:

http://www.skeptiko.com/get.php?web=skeptiko-2008-05-01-65144.mp3

Transcript of the interview:

http://www.skeptiko.com/blog/?p=8

Limbo
26th November 2008, 04:15 PM
The Polarization of Psi Beliefs: Rational, Controlling, Masculine Skepticism versus Interconnected, Spiritual, Feminine Belief (http://jeksite.org/psi/jaspr03.doc)

ABSTRACT: Anecdotal observations suggest that the extreme skeptics of paranormal phenomena tend to be males who place great value on rational thinking and control, and often feel threatened by and hostile toward those with different beliefs and values. These characteristics are consistent with the emerging evidence that males have genetic tendencies for social dominance and rational thinking. Research on the relationship between religion and belief in psi has given mixed results but suggests that belief may be more related to personal spirituality than to institutionalized religion. As a first step in understanding the polarization of psi beliefs, gender and spirituality were examined for extreme skeptics and extreme believers in psi from a Canadian representative national survey. For the extreme skeptics, 72% were male and 62% did not consider spirituality important. For the extreme believers, 64% were females and 86% considered spirituality important. These and other findings suggest that skepticism and belief in psi may be associated with genetic, sex-related personality factors. Research on paranormal beliefs may be hindered by the failure to distinguish belief in psi as a human ability versus as divine intervention.

godless dave
26th November 2008, 04:39 PM
Valuing rational thinking is hardly a negative trait. If that study says most skeptics are skeptics because they value rational thinking, then I'd be inclined to agree. I am not at all convinced that any gender disparity is due to biology rather than social pressure, but I suppose it is possible.

godless dave
26th November 2008, 04:48 PM
Has anyone read this:

Parapsychology and the Skeptics (http://www.amazon.com/Parapsychology-Skeptics-Scientific-Argument-Existence/dp/1585011088)

Here are some excerpts:

http://www.parapsychologyandtheskeptics.com/P&Ssamples.pdf

An interview with the author:

http://www.skeptiko.com/get.php?web=skeptiko-2008-05-01-65144.mp3

Transcript of the interview:

http://www.skeptiko.com/blog/?p=8
I skimmed both. The book excerpt is full of appeals to authority, without any actual evidence. In the interview, the author claims that skeptics are ignoring the evidence because of their preconceived notions - but doesn't present any of the evidence he claims they're ignoring. He does allude to a video in what he calls his "Dogs that know" project (which I thought was Sheldrake's, but I could be mistaken). Apparently, it shows a dog waiting for its owner to return home in a particular spot. Why this is supposed to be evidence for anything is beyond me. My cats do the same thing at 6 pm and at 8 pm - because they know about what time of day my girlfriend (6 pm) and I (8 pm) usually get home. I'm sure most dog owners are familiar with this behavior, so I'm not sure what it's supposed to demonstrate.

Beth
26th November 2008, 06:06 PM
Thank you Limbo and Ersby. That was quite interesting!

Limbo
26th November 2008, 06:20 PM
Valuing rational thinking is hardly a negative trait. If that study says most skeptics are skeptics because they value rational thinking, then I'd be inclined to agree. I am not at all convinced that any gender disparity is due to biology rather than social pressure, but I suppose it is possible.


Do you value spirituality? Do you consider spirituality important? Are you hostile toward those with different beliefs and values?

godless dave
26th November 2008, 06:29 PM
Do you value spirituality? Do you consider spirituality important? Are you hostile toward those with different beliefs and values?

No to all three.

Limbo
26th November 2008, 06:31 PM
No to all three.


I believe you're not being honest...I think deep down your hidden answer to #3 is yes.

You seem to fit the bill of a threatened, hostile, control freak pseudo-skeptic. I wouldn't expect someone like you to evaluate parapsychological research fairly...you're too threatened by it and hostile toward it to be fair and rational about it. I would side with Interconnected, Spiritual, Feminine Belief instead of people like you as a matter of principle.

Do not insult other posters. Remember, attack the argument not the arguer.

godless dave
26th November 2008, 06:54 PM
I believe you're not being honest...I think deep down your hidden answer to #3 is yes.


And you believe this why? I invite you to do a search of my forum posts and point out any that reveal such hostility. I've only been here 18 months so it shouldn't bog down the search engine too much.

tyr_13
26th November 2008, 07:31 PM
I believe you're not being honest...I think deep down your hidden answer to #3 is yes.

You seem to fit the bill of a threatened, hostile, control freak pseudo-skeptic. I wouldn't expect someone like you to evaluate parapsychological research fairly...you're too threatened by it and hostile toward it to be fair and rational about it. I would side with Interconnected, Spiritual, Feminine Belief instead of people like you as a matter of principle.

Um, what? So are you just going to claim that anyone who disagrees with the literature you posted is just hostile?

GD didn't get hostile. Here, as an example, I'll show you. Hostile is, "You're a *********** moron, because those studies are ****." Not hostile is, "The book excerpt is full of appeals to authority, without any actual evidence."

Ersby
27th November 2008, 12:37 AM
I've read both the Chris Carter (not the X-Files guy) thing and the JE Kennedy paper. I thought about talking about Kennedy's findings, but it was based on a subset (just three questions) of a Canadian survey so I thought it's findings were fairly limited.

Chris Carter's book is one that gets quoted quite a lot these days. It doesn't talk about the psychology of belief at all, as far as I can see. Plus, does anyone have a reference for the claim that museums across Europe chucked out their collection of meteorites? I've read up on this subject fairly extensively in academic books and no one else - not even those books with a cynical attitude towards the estblishment - mentions this.

Ersby
27th November 2008, 12:38 AM
I believe you're not being honest...I think deep down your hidden answer to #3 is yes.

If you're going to make up the answer, there's no point in asking the question.

Ersby
27th November 2008, 12:44 AM
I would side with Interconnected, Spiritual, Feminine Belief instead of people like you as a matter of principle.

And way back on page two I wrote...

It seems to me that people have become distracted by the inclusive nature of parapsychology (inter-connectedness, vague talk about energies, field consciousness) and assume that sceptics are against that rather than against what they see as shoddy science and a waste of resources.

Take faith-healing (an extreme example, but it serves as an illustration). Some people see that as a manifestation of God’s love, and to be against it, you must be against God’s love. Similarly I often get the impression that people think to be against parapsychology, you must be against feelings and empathy and intuition. And to be against psychic mediums, you must be against family love and relationships.

Certainly, before WW2, when pseudoscience was trying it’s best to be divisive (phrenology, physiognomy) the shoe was on the other foot and it was the sceptics who must’ve seemed like the lovely inclusive friendly ones.

plumjam
27th November 2008, 01:38 AM
And you believe this why? I invite you to do a search of my forum posts and point out any that reveal such hostility. I've only been here 18 months so it shouldn't bog down the search engine too much.

Just to save Limbo the trouble, in this very interesting thread of his, here's a link to a post you made in my Catholics/Evolutionists thread in which you quoted a post of mine, but changed my wording in order to accuse me of being a liar.
You did this, I can only assume, as an act of hostility due to your beliefs in the area of evolution being questioned / made fun of.
http://forums.randi.org/showpost.php?p=4194989&postcount=42

Maybe Limbo has greater psi ability than he's been letting on. ;)

godless dave
27th November 2008, 02:00 AM
Just to save Limbo the trouble, in this very interesting thread of his, here's a link to a post you made in my Catholics/Evolutionists thread in which you quoted a post of mine, but changed my wording in order to accuse me of being a liar.
You did this, I can only assume, as an act of hostility due to your beliefs in the area of evolution being questioned / made fun of.
http://forums.randi.org/showpost.php?p=4194989&postcount=42


No, I did that as an act of hostility toward people who tell lies. I proudly admit to being hostile to dishonesty.

Cuddles
27th November 2008, 02:44 AM
Um, what? So are you just going to claim that anyone who disagrees with the literature you posted is just hostile?

I'd only read a couple of pages of this thread when I made my last post. I must be psychic:
In this case, Limbo is taking the usual dishonest position of saying, to paraphrase, "Skeptics doubted X and it turned out to be true, therefore all skeptics are big meanies who dismiss everything out of hand.".

plumjam
27th November 2008, 03:05 AM
No, I did that as an act of hostility toward people who tell lies. I proudly admit to being hostile to dishonesty.

Hmm.. what you did was accuse me of being a liar. Yet neither in that original post or any following ones did you attempt to substantiate the claim.
Also, if you're so 'hostile to dishonesty' why would you have used the dishonest tactic of quoting me while changing my words to make it appear I wrote something of a contrary meaning to that which I intended?
If your purpose is to combat what you personally interpret as dishonesty, then using tactics which everyone else will easily acknowledge as dishonest is very unlikely to work out.

It seems like you're gonna try to get out of your current bind by simply labeling whatever challenges your own most dearly held beliefs about reality as examples of dishonesty.
You're really playing into Limbo's hands, can't you see?

Anyway, end of derail.

cj.23
27th November 2008, 03:16 AM
Actually presumably scepticism as a subset of human behaviour has a distinct psychology - I'm wondering what marks it now. I recall using Michaeal Thalbourne's New Australian Sheep/Goat scale a few times - I may actually still have it on my pc. Some years ago I administered it to my ghosthunting group of 14 individuals, and only two of us came out as "sheep" believers, with a mean far in to goatland. This was a group who was drawn from folks I met through the Most Haunted forum as well! :) Surprisingly, I was actually a strong believer, which makes me wonder where the average lies on it. Oh well!

cj x

fls
27th November 2008, 04:34 AM
Has anyone read this:

Parapsychology and the Skeptics (http://www.amazon.com/Parapsychology-Skeptics-Scientific-Argument-Existence/dp/1585011088)

Here are some excerpts:

http://www.parapsychologyandtheskeptics.com/P&Ssamples.pdf

Since this author continues the fairly odd practice of considering only examples that were originally doubtful and later became established, I guess it's probably not happenstance. This seems to suggest that believers have a way to tell beforehand whether or not something will turn out to be true, or that what they believe and what is true they consider to be the same. I'm very skeptical of the first claim, since humans have a terrible track record of figuring out what is real before the careful collection of evidence helps to clarify the issue, and I have yet to see any information that supports the idea that believers are immune to the same errors in thinking that plague everyone else. Which leaves me with the second claim. Limbo very helpfully followed up her/his post with an example of that second claim. "Skeptics are hostile to those with different beliefs" remains true regardless of whether she/he is given conflicting information. This makes it doubtful that believers' statements about evidence are reliable and valid on their face (please note that I used Limbo as an illustrative example, not as the source for this idea).

If parapsychologists sincerely wish to persuade scientists and other skeptics that their evaluations are reliable and valid, they should provide examples of beliefs that they discarded and how they discovered that they weren't true.

Linda

fls
27th November 2008, 04:36 AM
Actually presumably scepticism as a subset of human behaviour has a distinct psychology - I'm wondering what marks it now. I recall using Michaeal Thalbourne's New Australian Sheep/Goat scale a few times - I may actually still have it on my pc. Some years ago I administered it to my ghosthunting group of 14 individuals, and only two of us came out as "sheep" believers, with a mean far in to goatland. This was a group who was drawn from folks I met through the Most Haunted forum as well! :) Surprisingly, I was actually a strong believer, which makes me wonder where the average lies on it. Oh well!

cj x

Did you expect most everyone to be a sheep and for you to be one of the least sheep-like?

Linda

cj.23
27th November 2008, 04:53 AM
Did you expect most everyone to be a sheep and for you to be one of the least sheep-like?

Linda


Yep. The Sheep/Goat scale of Thalbourne's replaced included religious beliefs, and some other stuff. Given my sample was ghosthunters who watch some pretty dire paranormal TV and who were willing to stump up good money to go on ghost investigations, I rather expected them to have noticiebale higher paranormal beliefs than the average. I'd assumed the test was calibrated so a 0, neither sheep not goat, was roughly what the national average would be. Instead they all scored negative, well in to goat territory except one lady who was a "posychic medium" who scored marginally higher than me. As I regard myself as intensely sceptical, and am not convinced by most "paranormal" claims i was amazed to find my score so much higher then the average. As one of them said, "given that most of us do not actually believe in the possibility of a genuine ghost I do wonder why we bother to som on these events!" :)

It could be that there has been a major shift in public attitudes since the scale was created, around 1983 I believe off the top of my head. The sample was too small to say much - but a major study was conducted with it in a British high school population around 1994 or 5 if I recall correctly, I'll have to see how they scored...

cj x

cj x

Limbo
27th November 2008, 06:35 AM
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF FUNDAMENTALIST AND HUMANIST PERSONALITIES (http://www.cdrh.humanists.ca/letters/drsart1.html)

Presented by
Dr. Khalid Sohail
Psychiatrist
Creative Psychotherapy Clinic
Whitby Ontario Canada L1N 4 P7

[...]

FOUR GROUPS OF PEOPLE

Ten years ago when I was writing my book From Islam to Secular Humanism…A Philosophical Journey I became aware that people’s belief systems may not be realistic reflections of their lifestyles, and I started exploring the relationship between people’s ideologies and attitudes, their philosophies and personalities. I realized that ideologies are like book covers and we all know that books should not be judged by their covers.

I am quite aware that each human being has a unique personality and lifestyle but to highlight the relationship between ideology and lifestyle, philosophy and personality and then identify interpersonal conflicts from a psychological point of view, we can divide people into four broad categories:

A…Religious Fundamentalists…People with a Religious Ideology and Fundamentalist Personality…

B…Atheist Fundamentalists…People with an Atheist Philosophy and Fundamentalist Personality

C…Secular Humanists…People with a Secular Humanist Philosophy and Humanist Personality

D…Religious Humanists…People with a Religious Ideology and Humanist Personality
<snip>

Edited for rule 4 violation. Do not paste articles in their entirity. Paste a significant selection and provide the link.

Cuddles
27th November 2008, 06:38 AM
As I regard myself as intensely sceptical, and am not convinced by most "paranormal" claims i was amazed to find my score so much higher then the average.

I suspect this is what Linda was hinting at - you describe yourself as intensely skeptical, yet you also say that only "most" paranormal claims don't convince you, implying that there are some that do. Given that most people who are actually skeptical agree that there is no good evidence in favour of any paranormal phenomena, that suggests that you are not actually as skeptical as you think you are.

This is by no means unique to you, or to the paranormal for that matter, it seems to be a normal feature of being human. For example, if you ask people how good they are at driving compared to others, the vast majority of people will place themselves well into the better half, which is clearly impossible. When it comes to the paranormal, pretty much everyone describes themselves as a skeptic and claims people who doubt them or believe something else are stupid, unskeptical, government shills or whatever, yet clearly there are a lot of people who aren't skeptical at all.

There are two points to this. Specifically to your post, I would suggest that the reason you score so high is not because there's anything wrong with the test, but that there is something wrong with your perception of yourself. To the thread in general, this really highlights the futility of trying to talk about the behaviour and attitudes of skeptics as a monolithic group without first having an objective measure of skepticism. Self-identification does not work since practically everyone describes themselves as a skeptic, even if they don't use the exact word and may not even realise that is what they are describing.

Ersby
27th November 2008, 06:53 AM
I don't describe myself as a skeptic, though I recognise that some (most?) people would consider me as such.

Anyway, I just found this, as a slightly less emotive addition to the debate.

TI: Paranormal beliefs and preference for games of chance.
AU: Tobacyk,-Jerome-J.; Wilkinson,-Lamar-V.
IN: Louisiana Tech U, Ruston, US
JN: Psychological-Reports; 1991 Jun Vol 68(3, Pt 2) 1088-1090
IS: 00332941
LA: English
PY: 1991
AB: Examined the relationship between paranormal beliefs (traditional religious belief, psi, witchcraft, superstition, spiritualism, extraordinary life forms, and precognition) and preferences for games of chance (GOC). 235 college students completed the Paranormal Belief Scale and 6 items concerning preference for GOC. Significant correlations were found for beliefs in superstition, psi, spiritualism, and precognition with preference for GOC. (PsycLIT Database Copyright 1992 American Psychological Assn, all rights reserved)

fls
27th November 2008, 07:03 AM
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF FUNDAMENTALIST AND HUMANIST PERSONALITIES (http://www.cdrh.humanists.ca/letters/drsart1.html)

I am quite aware that each human being has a unique personality and lifestyle but to highlight the relationship between ideology and lifestyle, philosophy and personality and then identify interpersonal conflicts from a psychological point of view, we can divide people into four broad categories:

A…Religious Fundamentalists…People with a Religious Ideology and Fundamentalist Personality…

B…Atheist Fundamentalists…People with an Atheist Philosophy and Fundamentalist Personality

C…Secular Humanists…People with a Secular Humanist Philosophy and Humanist Personality

D…Religious Humanists…People with a Religious Ideology and Humanist Personality

That's what I find particularly cool about the benefits of using the scientific and skeptical approach in the search for knowledge - knowledge advances even in the face of hostility.

Linda

Limbo
27th November 2008, 07:14 AM
cj, it seems you're violating skeptic rules...


you describe yourself as intensely skeptical, yet you also say that only "most" paranormal claims don't convince you, implying that there are some that do.


Thou shalt not be convinced by ANY subjective experience or objective evidence.


Given that most people who are actually skeptical agree that there is no good evidence in favour of any paranormal phenomena, that suggests that you are not actually as skeptical as you think you are.


Thou must conform with the skeptic social norms, AGREE with your fellow skeptics. Never doubt the honesty of a skeptic, or you'll get an infraction. Conform, or else be cast out as a woo-woo...you don't want that do you?

Don't think for yourself, don't seek out "convincing" evidence. You shouldn't have read those boxes of journals. Avoid that stuff. Even though that will mean you aren't aware of ALL the available "evidence" out there, assume it isn't convincing. Take an a priori position. Don't look at the big picture. If there was any "convincing" evidence out there, Randi would have told you about it. Trust in Randi. He is Amazing.

CONFORM.

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Oh, wait. Do skeptics celebrate Thanksgiving? Better find out before you celebrate. Don't want to violate another skeptic rule, do you?

fls
27th November 2008, 07:23 AM
I suspect this is what Linda was hinting at - you describe yourself as intensely skeptical, yet you also say that only "most" paranormal claims don't convince you, implying that there are some that do. Given that most people who are actually skeptical agree that there is no good evidence in favour of any paranormal phenomena, that suggests that you are not actually as skeptical as you think you are.

I actually see cj.23 as pretty skeptical. I think he has more pre-existing beliefs than some others who identify as skeptics, but he also seems to clearly see the distinction between belief and the process of skeptical thinking. And I wonder if the sheep-goat thing is maybe set up to capture pre-existing belief to a greater extent than it captures the way that people think.

Even though the sole purpose of the article that Limbo just quoted seemed to be atheist-bashing, I think it had a good point - that belief can be considered separate from whether or not someone takes a skeptical approach to claims.

I also don't think that I am a better than average driver. :)

Linda

fls
27th November 2008, 07:37 AM
cj, it seems you're violating skeptic rules...

Thou shalt not be convinced by ANY subjective experience or objective evidence.

Thou must conform with the skeptic social norms, AGREE with your fellow skeptics.

Don't think for yourself, don't seek out "convincing" evidence. Avoid it. Even though that will mean you aren't aware of ALL the available "evidence" out there, assume it isn't convincing. Take an a priori position. Don't look at the big picture. If there was any "convincing" evidence out there, Randi would have told you about it. Trust in Randi. He is Amazing.

CONFORM.

You're trying really hard to get something going here. :)

I'll think on it a bit and see if I can come up with something that helps you out (I have to go out and walk the dog anyway).

Linda

blutoski
27th November 2008, 07:59 AM
Depends on the researcher and what they are researching. Some serious researchers do use the internet as a cost-effective way of collecting information on groups of people. With proper controls, it can be useful.

I appreciate that you're trying hard, here, but this isn't about generalizations. This is about specifically using anonymous online forums to armchair psychoanalyze a real population. It's an epic fail.




No, I’ve read the thread. I was just being flippant. I’ll try harder to avoid any attempts at humor in the future.

Park the sarcasm. You could have just written more clearly.




Who was claiming it was a credible sample of a real world community? I said it was a better sample than four famous skeptics, a sample which you appeared to take seriously. Do you disagree?

I do not think it's a better sample than four famous skeptics. It's "just as useless."




Have you read through any threads on what constitutes a ‘true skeptic’. There is no community standard. Instead, there is some fairly intense disagreement over things like whether someone who believes in god can be a skeptic. At the moment, community standards are not a viable method for distinguishing skeptics from non-skeptics.

A sad truth, to which I agree. That's germaine to my point that the original post has a fundamental weakness: the author has failed to define his terms, so in my opinoin it is impossible to have any response other than "the thesis needs a lot of work."




I think that being famous is what would allow people to accept them as ‘authentic skeptics’. However, you have a valid point. I hadn’t considered it from the perspective of other people agreeing that they are skeptics.

That's pretty much the way professions and societies are defined. Not necessarily social phenomena, though. As professions, the skeptical community probably has a high intra-survey correlation.




Seems to me you’re splitting a rather fine hair here. Would not a skeptical way of thinking be the way skeptics think?

Not in any way that has meaning. The opening post was presenting a theory that skeptics are different than believers (which is 90% of the population) because of the specified mental problems.




Only if the hypothesis was that it is a unique artifact of skeptical thinking. I’m not sure I would agree that was part of the hypothesis, though I’ll certainly agree that it isn’t unique to skeptics.

It was the central thesis for the post: skeptics are different than believers because skeptical thinking is defective.

It suffers from the weaknesses I outlined earlier in the thread. Specifically, it's opinion 'backed by' opinion, and doesn't really speak to what 'skeptic' or 'believer' mean for the sake of even the essay.

I read polemics against nonbelievers all the time, and I mentally file this one in the same place as Coulter or Browne's screeds.

blutoski
27th November 2008, 08:18 AM
If parapsychologists sincerely wish to persuade scientists and other skeptics that their evaluations are reliable and valid, they should provide examples of beliefs that they discarded and how they discovered that they weren't true.

Another aspect of this type of debate that I have always found confusing is that the paranormal view is somehow held to be the 'new' idea. The essay in the opening post portrayed scientists as an analogue to priests defending orthodoxy.

No: priests are priests defending orthodoxy. The orthodoxy is the antique view in cartesian duality, the existence of 'something' beyond the material. Scientists are the new guy trying to make headway against fifty thousand years of entrenched belief in the paranormal.

Taking the ancient belief in mind-reading magic and renaming it 'telepathy through unknown means' does not turn it into the 'new concept'. What it is is [syncretism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syncretism)]. Scientology is a case study in stapling technological lingo onto prehistoric paranormal concepts.

Limbo
27th November 2008, 08:35 AM
You're trying really hard to get something going here. :)


Not really. In terms of effort, it's pretty easy. A half-assed effort. A few links, no biggie. Hell, I'm just a nobody. Just one person, an interested layman. Imagine if interest in the psychology of skepticism, in particular organized skepticism, really took off.

Oh, wait. It can't. The skeptics rule psychology don't they? It would be a betrayal. ;)