Tag Archives | Skepticism

Are AI-Doomsayers like Skeptical Theists? A Precis of the Argument

the-end-is-near

This was originally published on Philosophical Disquisitions

Some of you may have noticed my recently-published paper on existential risk and artificial intelligence. The paper offers a somewhat critical perspective on the recent trend for AI-doomsaying among people like Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates. Of course, it doesn’t focus on their opinions; rather, it focuses on the work of the philosopher Nick Bostrom, who has written the most impressive analysis to date of the potential risks posed by superintelligent machines.

I want to try and summarise the main points of that paper in this blog post. This summary comes with the usual caveat that the full version contains more detail and nuance. If you want that detail and nuance, you should read that paper. That said, writing this summary after the paper was published does give me the opportunity to reflect on its details and offer some modifications to the argument in light of feedback/criticisms.… Read the rest

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Files from the Academic Fringe: Pt. 4 – Skepticism

Eugenie recapitulates phylogeny

Eugenie recapitulates phylogeny

Part 1 — Scientism
Part 2 — Creationism
Part 3 — Racism

It’s hard to believe that scientific skeptics would be anything less than ethical. Aren’t they the good guys in our secular society, sniffing out bullshit and putting age-old wives’ tales to rest? Or is that just a myth?

Apparently debunkers have a dark side. It was just before Halloween 2012. While swirling around the clickbait vortex, I stumbled across a scathing allegation. According to “The Skepchick,” numerous men in the “skeptic community” were bombarding their female colleagues with sexist cracks and crass sexual harassment—and with Richard Dawkins’s tacit approval.

Were these disbelieving libertines trying to open the public’s eyes or reenact Eyes Wide Shut? I had my doubts. About everything.

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On the Certainty of Uncertainty, or: Why there is no Skepticism beyond Self-Skepticism

handmade, scissor and glue collage. may, 2009. Joana Coccarelli (CC BY 2.0)

inner life of a skeptic
handmade, scissor and glue collage. may, 2009. Joana Coccarelli (CC BY 2.0)

It seems to me that if you ask most people, most will tell you that most people are idiots. It doesn’t matter which political, philosophical, spiritual, moral, ethical background these people come from. If you ask them, everybody else is idiotic, except for themselves, of course. Therefore, however, if most people are idiots, and most people believe that most people are idiots, then most of the people who believe most people are idiots, are idiots.

This is quite a conundrum. Mathematically speaking, most people who believe most people are idiots are, themselves, idiots. And since I’m one of these people who believe most people are idiots, there’s a good chance that I, myself, am an idiot.

To get anywhere, I have to acknowledge this fact — I may, in fact, be one of the idiots.… Read the rest

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Gimme Nirvana Baby: On the Spiritual Journey of Ash from the Evil Dead Films

3

Ugh. I’ve desperately tried to write this essay without referring–for the second essay in a row–to my Sunday living habits. They’re really not that interesting, and I understand that. But I’m sorry. Just like the last essay, the origins of this one occur during those existential lulls that seem to characterize a lot of people’s Christian Sabbath.

You see, in my household–after my morning workout– Sunday mornings are reserved for one of two rituals. One, because my wife is a practicing Catholic, we go to mass. Or, two–if we’re too lazy on that particular morning–we lay around in our sweats and my wife watches “Super Soul Sundays” on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Of the two, even though I am a blasphemer, heretic and just an outright nonbeliever, I greatly prefer going to mass, even though it means making the effort to look presentable in public on a Sunday morning and listening to some dweeb in a blouse tell me about how I need to make some more time for gahd/Jesus in my life.… Read the rest

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James Randi: debunking the king of the debunkers

an-honest-liar-film-festival

via The Telegraph:

There are few public figures who’ve had decades of an almost perfectly positive press, as James Randi has. The 87-year-old debunker of the paranormal was Richard Dawkins before God invented Richard Dawkins – angry, verbally aggressive, a hero to the kinds of people who don’t believe in Big Foot and are rational enough to become sleepless with fury at the brainlessness of the idiots who do.

Author and thinker Isaac Asimov once claimed Randi’s “qualifications as a rational human being are unparalleled”, whilst the New York Times has called him our “most celebrated living debunker”. More recently he’s been the star of an award winning documentary film telling his incredible story.

Originally a magician and escapologist known as The Amazing Randi he graduated, as a young man, to the more serious business of exposing con-men and the self-deluded who claim supernatural powers. His long life and career has been devoted to the pursuit of truth above all else.

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Capitalism is God’s Will and the Cat Drank all the Milk: How our Language Creates our Biggest Problems and Why We Can’t do Anything about It

Felipe Del Valle (CC BY 2.0)

Felipe Del Valle (CC BY 2.0)

I have a confession to make, one that a good number of readers will find disgusting and emetic and prevent many of them from reading further. Others, however, might relate or find it interesting regardless, and so those people will continue to read, which, I suppose, is good enough for me. You see, when I was a child, from a very early age, probably as early as I can remember, I felt all around me the “Presence of God.” It was and is, in all actuality, an impossible feeling to properly describe, but I suppose to some extent that I could say that I felt some sort of “immanent-transcendent energy” “flowing” through me and through my surroundings. Having lived in a rural area hours away in any direction from something resembling civilization, many of my childhood memories consist of me sitting in the backseat of a Toyota 4Runner driving somewhere else, usually toward civilization somewhere.… Read the rest

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Assertions of Scientific Certainty Are Greeted With Skepticism

epSos .de (CC BY 2.0)

epSos .de (CC BY 2.0)

via Pacific Standard Magazine:

New German research suggests the public is wary of statements suggesting a scientific debate has been closed.

On many fronts, scientists continue to be frustrated by the public’s unwillingness to accept their conclusions. On issues ranging from Ebola to climate change, their impulse is often to re-state their case in ever-more-vigorous terms, forcefully noting that there is no serious doubt about their assertions.

Newly published research from Germany suggests that sort of language may, in fact, be counterproductive.

In a small online study, participants who read about another hot-button topic—the effects of computer games on children—were more skeptical “when statements were presented as overly certain,” according to a research team led by Stephan Winter of the University of Duisberg-Essen. Its research is published in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology.

Read More: http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/assertions-scientific-certainty-greeted-skepticism-94269/

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Richard Dawkin’s Privilege Delusion

Matti Á (CC BY 2.0)

Matti Á (CC BY 2.0)

Rebecca Watson writes at Skepchick:

Well, PZ Myers, Jen McCreight, Phil Plait, Amanda Marcotte, Greg Laden, Melissa McEwan and others have all already said it, but I figured I should post this for the record: yes, Richard Dawkins believes I should be a good girl and just shut up about being sexually objectified because it doesn’t bother him. Thanks, wealthy old heterosexual white man!

When I started this site, I didn’t call myself a feminist. I had a hazy idea that feminism was a good thing, but it was something that other people worried about, not me. I was living in a time and culture that had transcended the need for feminism, because in my world we were all rational atheists who had thrown off our religious indoctrination so that I could freely make rape jokes without fear of hurting someone who had been raped.

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A skeptical website of skeptics

inner life of a skeptic by Joana Coccarelli via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

inner life of a skeptic by Joana Coccarelli via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

http://www.skepticalaboutskeptics.org

Skeptical About Skeptics is dedicated to countering dogmatic, ill-informed attacks leveled by self-styled skeptics on pioneering scientific research, researchers, and their subjects.

Healthy skepticism is an important part of science, and indeed of common sense. But dogmatic skepticism uses skepticism as a weapon to defend an ideology or belief system, and inhibits the spirit of inquiry.

Most self-proclaimed skeptics are believers in a materialist worldview, and dismiss any evidence for phenomena that do not agree with their presumption that minds are nothing but brain activities confined to the insides of heads.

Members of militant skeptical organizations often think of themselves as defending science and reason against superstition and credulity.”

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Debunking Debunkers

English: Wizard with another spell.

This may be refreshing to some, challenging of worldviews to others, and possibly rankle some curmudgeons. Please do continue reading to get to the meat and potatoes.

via Thrive:

I love debunkers — the REAL ones. I am a rational skeptic and I know a dedicated and skillful debunker can save us all time and help keep us from being duped yet again in dangerous and impactful ways. The problem is finding and identifying the real ones in a murky sea of fake naysayers and hating trolls with a hidden and biased agenda that does not prioritize truth.

We are living in an unprecedented era where one person or a small team can use independent and alternative media to communicate key perspectives to millions of people worldwide — in a short amount of time. Given what we are dealing with in the way of planetary demise, this is a really good thing!

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