Author Topic: Skeptics and dismissiveness.  (Read 12340 times)

Kai

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Skeptics and dismissiveness.
« on: August 23, 2009, 02:28:00 pm »
Skeptics and skeptic websites and talk don't interest me particularly.

In part, it's because skeptics are often preaching to the choir. I understand the need for extraordinary claims to be backed by evidence and a willingness to change one's beliefs based if evidence arrives. The debunking of homeopathy, UFO's, creationism and the like are uninteresting because I already understand why these hypotheses are false. I also don't enjoy arguing with people over their personal beliefs in the above held topics (in public, anyway) so the need to internalize the argument is largely useless. I can get by with understanding what is false, and why, and not think much along those lines because there is nothing interesting going on there.

The other reason skeptic talk doesn't interest me is that it tends to be dismissive. Take religion for example. I am facinated by religion. It's a very human activity, and there are very few cultures (if any) on this planet that don't have some sort of binding central myth. I find that by studying religion and engaging in religious activities I am a better person, with greater understanding and a greater well-being. Many skeptics dismiss religion. I don't mean to say they actively bash religious beliefs and activities (although sometimes they do) but they tend to dismiss it as something to be avoided.

Why is that? I find that particularly facinating. Here we have this entirely human activity, so central to the lives of so many people, and while often destructive it is just as often creative, and a skeptic will avoid taking part. Is it because religion has burned them in some way? Is it because they can't rationalize religious activities and therefore it is meaningless? And then sometimes I wonder if there isn't a sort of religion in rationality...but I won't go that direction. I will say that human existence is rather amazing and religion is part of that. There is so much interesting stuff happening in religion, worthy of investigation not just to "show how wrong it is".

It seems to me that when a skeptical person is shown evidence that, for example, auras do not exist in the physical energetic sense, they will do either one of two things. A, they will conclude there is nothing interesting to investigate in people who do individual "aural work", or B they will actively talk and type and podcast how much of a bunch of hooey aural work really is. Both endings have a real dismissive tone. I say, lets look at this more closely. There doesn't seem to be this thing called aural energy which sits around a person and can be manipulated by thought. However, this mental excercise has some interesting results, it seems the thought process of imagining this field around oneself and manipulating it changes the way the person reacts to reality, and THAT is very interesting.

"But it's /just/ the placebo effect".

Just? /Just/ the placebo effect you say? That's like saying that the reason photosynthesis continues to function on this planet is /just/ because of photons from the sun. There's something interesting here, in psychosomatic and somatopsychic connections, something so profoundly useful and meaningful that it is, well, STUPID to dismiss.

Which is why I tend to hang out with "New Agers" more than Skeptics. The weird stuff has interesting results.

~Kai
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Re: Skeptics and dismissiveness.
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2009, 03:21:27 pm »
:mittens:

reminds me of a tangental anecdote from yesterday-

was in a car with someone. As a way of killing time, I come up with abbreviations for the car license plates around me. Anyway I noticed this one license plate in front of us, EPS, stopped at a stop sign right next to a car with another EPS license plate. I made a note of it, "check it out, those cars have nearly identical license plates, isn't that cool?"

the skeptic in the car said "Well it's not that unlikely really."

How is that not unlikely?

Well they print big batches of license plates at the same time, and the local DMV probably approves them in batches, so it's not unusual that two cars purchased in the same city at the same time would have the same license plate letters.

Okay, I said, but what are the odds that we'd witness this exact moment when those two cars registered on the same day happen to be side by side? Note I'm not attributing any significance to this moment, just pointing out how unlikely it is and how cool it is that we were here to see it.

And the skeptic said Well it's not that unlikely.

I was tempted to debate that point, but all I was saying was Hey, we just witnessed an odd moment of synchronicity. To totally dismiss that seems kind of ... seems kind of boring to me.

that's not quite the right word, "boring"

but it seems to me like in a subjective universe, we're in charge of investing meaning into things on an individual level. If we do that while armed with both rational thought and a sense of spirituality, we can live in a very beautiful universe.

The skeptic seemed quite tuned into defeating meaning. Telling me that this event was meaningless, "just random chance", as if the idea that this synch emerged from happenstance makes it any less meaningful (to me).

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Re: Skeptics and dismissiveness.
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2009, 05:27:38 pm »
In place of "boring", how about "wet-blanketly", "weaksauce", or "emotionally cheap"?  Fuck 'em.

Also, linky:
http://amasci.com/weird/wclose.html

Rationalixm, as the belief that all actions have a rational basis --or at least everything I'm known to do-- has a rational basis, sounds more like a fetish:  "I must rationalize my behavior.  Always."

Or not.  IDK.

Kai:  cool example.  Aura phenomena are kind of my interest, too.

Of especial interest: dickhead skeptics aren't the only kind of skeptic, and by no means the only form of skepticism!
Quote
    "Academic" or "Cartesian" Skeptics: followers of Plato's Academy.
    Reason is paramount. We cannot know anything about the future, or anything about the contents of someone else's mind, or anything about the past, or anything at all about the "external world."

    "Epistemist" Skeptics
    We CAN know about the future, we can know about the contents of someone else's mind, or about the past, or about the "external world."

    "Pyrrhonian" Skeptics
    Inquiry is paramount, and a skeptic is an inquirer. Our position is not doubt or denial or disbelief, but continual inquiry. For example, We do not believe in the reality of a god, but neither do we deny it. Nor do we say that nobody could ever know for certain one way or the other, as agnostics do. Instead we say of god, "I personally do not know at the moment but I am trying to find out."

...

    Kurtzian Skepticism.
    Old school CSICOP skepticism doesn't seem to fall under any of the above three classifications. Kurtzian Skepticism is more based on a battle between light and darkness, where Skeptics know the truth about religion, about the paranormal, cryptozoology, etc., and they must fight against hoards of credulous people who 'worship' ignorance, and who threaten to bring down civilization and trigger a new dark age.

....

Both sides of the UFO/Paranormal debate seem to hate the Pyrrhonian Skeptics. For example, JREF and online CSICOP people instantly assume that Pyrrhonians are the enemy, and then they leap to attack (after all, Pyrrhonians don't deny Yeti or alien visitation or PSI, so we're obviously on the side of the disgusting "woo-woos.") At the same time, the UFO-believers usually see Pyrrhonians as closed minded debunkers who insist on questioning all their evidence!

:)

On the other hand, most scientists seem to be Pyrrhonians. That's why the typical member of a skeptical organization is NOT a professional scientist. That's why large numbers of scientists do NOT flock to Kurtzian-dominated skeptic organizations (and why Truzzi loudly objected to skeptical disbelief when was CSICOP first was forming, then dropped out in disgust.)

So... we have dogmatists who are sure that we're being visited by aliens, versus dogmatists who are certain that we're not: it appears to me that neither side witholds their belief before studying the evidence (or witholds their disbelief.) Neither side is genuinely curious about whether we're being visited or not. Neither side takes an unprejudiced look at the evidence, since first they'd have to admit that they don't already know the truth.
http://amasci.com/weird/pyrrhon.html

Epimetheus

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Re: Skeptics and dismissiveness.
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2009, 05:53:33 pm »
 :mittens: to Kai.
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Kai

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Re: Skeptics and dismissiveness.
« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2009, 06:05:00 pm »
That seems about right. The person you were in a car with heard that the two license plates were nearly the same, knew how that could happen with a higher probability than requiring a supernatural hypothesis, and thus finding the explanation physical dismissed it as interesting.

I've heard it said before, that if you give a kid a weird looking bug to look at, they'll follow it around, curious, watching, wondering "What is that?", but as soon as you tell them what it is, they go "Oh." and lose interest.

It seems to me that skeptics /want/ to find something supernatural in the universe. They're looking actively through the process of falsification. Over my lifetime, searching for the supernatural and finding none could make me jaded to finding meaning in the universe. If that were so, as soon as I found out something isn't supernatural I would loose interest.

The other thing is the reality filter continuum between Cognitive Bias and Syncronicity. The person you were talking to seems to be mired in a cognitive bias filter, that is, if something isn't immediately connected causally, any amount of meaning that could be gained from that connection is dismissed as preconceptions of the mind, useless, meaningless. You seemed to be working from a syncronistic filter, that is, although you understood the license plate numbers were probably not causally connected, you found the connection between the two interesting and exciting. "Well, it's not //that/ unlikely." or "It is /just/ placebo effect." as opposed to "This syncronistic event is interesting and exciting to me." or "What's going on here makes me extremely curious."

The former was dismissive and not curious. You were interested and excited and curious. I wonder if skepticism in large amounts kills curiosity. I'm not saying that working under a Cognitive Bias filter is bad/wrong; sometimes that focus is needed, especially when using the scientific method. Much of the time however I would rather operate under the Syncronicity filter, because it's far more meaningful, exciting and interesting.

So yes, skeptics are uninteresting, dcue to what seems to be a lack of curiosity and imaginitiveness. Antero Alli would call this the "Church of Rationality", I think, being stuck in one's own rational model that you can't even imagine reality being different.


I think random non causally connect events happening together are very interesting. Why is apparent randomness often seen as defeating?

@yhnmzw: I like the concept of Pyrrhonian Skepticism. I think of myself as a seeker, a very interested seeker, interested in everything and anything. Also the attitude of "I personally do not know at the moment but am trying to find out" is a very exciting one. This is the attitude of an explorer or adventurer, of a person who is interested and interesting.

I think the Cartesian and Epistemist Skeptics sound largely uninteresting but not particularly dangerous. Kurtzian Skepticism sounds quite dangerous, as it screams of Atheistic Materialism based Utopianism. And utopianism in any context is dangerous.
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Re: Skeptics and dismissiveness.
« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2009, 06:13:13 pm »
I like the concept of Pyrrhonian Skepticism. I think of myself as a seeker, a very interested seeker, interested in everything and anything. Also the attitude of "I personally do not know at the moment but am trying to find out" is a very exciting one. This is the attitude of an explorer or adventurer, of a person who is interested and interesting.

yes, this.
This is what I wanted to say.  :D
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Re: Skeptics and dismissiveness.
« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2009, 08:10:00 pm »
An atheism that denies fun is the correct response to a theism that denies fun.

Kai

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Re: Skeptics and dismissiveness.
« Reply #7 on: August 23, 2009, 11:59:22 pm »
An atheism that denies fun is the correct response to a theism that denies fun.

It is?
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Corvidia

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Re: Skeptics and dismissiveness.
« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2009, 02:31:34 am »
An atheism that denies fun is the correct response to a theism that denies fun.
Sounds to me like trading one flat, boring, angry perspective for another. I'd rather run around being curious and having fun instead of grumping my way through life.
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Re: Skeptics and dismissiveness.
« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2009, 02:59:31 am »
I agree about "skeptic" != "scientist", I'm a physicist and most people I know in the field aren't particularly skeptic in the CSICOP sense, as far as I've noticed. There is a difference between being rational and actively looking for things to disbelieve. Then again, most scientists are probably too caught up in what they're doing to care about debunking stuff.

In my experience describing yourself as a "skeptic" (OK, I only know a few who do) mostly means you're interested in watching youtube videos of Richard Dawkins.
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Re: Skeptics and dismissiveness.
« Reply #10 on: August 24, 2009, 03:58:16 am »
An atheism that denies fun is the correct response to a theism that denies fun.
Sounds to me like trading one flat, boring, angry perspective for another. I'd rather run around being curious and having fun instead of grumping my way through life.

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Re: Skeptics and dismissiveness.
« Reply #11 on: August 24, 2009, 05:21:19 am »
The person who delves into something to figure out what is actually going on, even if it is dismissive of the original claim, even if it hurts peoples feelings is the curious one... the one who excepts nonsense as truth without investigation is the one who is not curious.
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Re: Skeptics and dismissiveness.
« Reply #12 on: August 24, 2009, 05:41:28 am »
An atheism that denies fun is the correct response to a theism that denies fun.
Sounds to me like trading one flat, boring, angry perspective for another. I'd rather run around being curious and having fun instead of grumping my way through life.

:crankey:
Do you enjoy the grumping? If you do, that's your preference.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2009, 09:38:02 am by The Nerve-Ending Fairy »
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Re: Skeptics and dismissiveness.
« Reply #13 on: August 24, 2009, 08:09:54 am »
Great thread, Kai.


I see where you're coming from, but I still can't stand new agers...

The person who delves into something to figure out what is actually going on, even if it is dismissive of the original claim, even if it hurts peoples feelings is the curious one... the one who excepts nonsense as truth without investigation is the one who is not curious.
...And this is why.  Spirituality is often just another word for self-delusion, or diversion.

However, I recognize that sometimes self-delusion is necessary in order to cope with issues that are too much to bear.

And it is not a person's place to mock and crush someone else's worldview.  For me skepticism is mostly an internal thing--I just want to be as delusion-free as I can afford to be.

There is a difference between being rational and actively looking for things to disbelieve.
Well said.

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Re: Skeptics and dismissiveness.
« Reply #14 on: August 24, 2009, 09:18:25 am »
Skeptics and skeptic websites and talk don't interest me particularly.

In part, it's because skeptics are often preaching to the choir. I understand the need for extraordinary claims to be backed by evidence and a willingness to change one's beliefs based if evidence arrives. The debunking of homeopathy, UFO's, creationism and the like are uninteresting because I already understand why these hypotheses are false. I also don't enjoy arguing with people over their personal beliefs in the above held topics (in public, anyway) so the need to internalize the argument is largely useless. I can get by with understanding what is false, and why, and not think much along those lines because there is nothing interesting going on there.
I honestly don't have problems with anyone's beliefs until they 1) want to push those beliefs as public policy 2) they feel the need to tell me about those beliefs in detail. I never pass up a chance to tell someone that they are full of shit.  I'll have to agree with your statement about preaching to the choir though. Skeptics have done a good job of pushing back on creationism, anti-vaxxers, homeopaths, chiropractors, psychics, etc. They have done a lot of good in the last 20 years that can't easily be dismissed. ;)

Quote
The other reason skeptic talk doesn't interest me is that it tends to be dismissive. Take religion for example. I am fascinated by religion. It's a very human activity, and there are very few cultures (if any) on this planet that don't have some sort of binding central myth. I find that by studying religion and engaging in religious activities I am a better person, with greater understanding and a greater well-being. Many skeptics dismiss religion. I don't mean to say they actively bash religious beliefs and activities (although sometimes they do) but they tend to dismiss it as something to be avoided.

Why is that? I find that particularly fascinating. Here we have this entirely human activity, so central to the lives of so many people, and while often destructive it is just as often creative, and a skeptic will avoid taking part. Is it because religion has burned them in some way? Is it because they can't rationalize religious activities and therefore it is meaningless? And then sometimes I wonder if there isn't a sort of religion in rationality...but I won't go that direction. I will say that human existence is rather amazing and religion is part of that. There is so much interesting stuff happening in religion, worthy of investigation not just to "show how wrong it is".
Honestly, the reason that I usually dismiss religion is because the religion part of my brain doesn't really work like it does in most other humans. The only times that I can remember have anything close to a religious experience is listening to really good music. None of the other techniques seem to work for me. However I am fascinated about why other people believe like they do. That's why I enjoy reading Dennett and Shermer (except when it comes to politics) and even Karl Giberson. I haven't read much of anything by Dawkins and have only watched a handful of clips of him on Youtube. I'm not really that interested in what he has to say about religion. (I like his biology stuff though.)

Quote
It seems to me that when a skeptical person is shown evidence that, for example, auras do not exist in the physical energetic sense, they will do either one of two things. A, they will conclude there is nothing interesting to investigate in people who do individual "aural work", or B they will actively talk and type and podcast how much of a bunch of hooey aural work really is. Both endings have a real dismissive tone. I say, lets look at this more closely. There doesn't seem to be this thing called aural energy which sits around a person and can be manipulated by thought. However, this mental exercise has some interesting results, it seems the thought process of imagining this field around oneself and manipulating it changes the way the person reacts to reality, and THAT is very interesting.
It's interesting and useful bullshit. What else do you want me to say? I'm glad that you realize that it is all in your head because there are enough True Believers that will either swallow the bullshit down whole without taking a sniff first or will use New Ageish words to con other people out of money. Neither of these are acceptable.

Quote
"But it's /just/ the placebo effect".

Just? /Just/ the placebo effect you say? That's like saying that the reason photosynthesis continues to function on this planet is /just/ because of photons from the sun. There's something interesting here, in psychosomatic and somatopsychic connections, something so profoundly useful and meaningful that it is, well, STUPID to dismiss.

Which is why I tend to hang out with "New Agers" more than Skeptics. The weird stuff has interesting results.

~Kai
I've never been dismissive about the placebo effect. It's interesting to see how we can mindfuck ourselves. We just have to take a step back every once in awhile and remind ourselves that this isn't real. Don't drink your own jenkem. There's also the fact that certain alternative practices can be harmful. They can give you all of the side effects without any of the positive benefits.
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