Tag Archives | Skepticism

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.”

Read the rest

Continue Reading

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!

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Why the Price of Theism is Normative Skepticism

Image from page 318 of "With the world's people : an account of the ethnic origin, primitive estate, early migrations, social evolution, and present conditions and promise of the principal families of men : together with a preliminary inquiry on the time. Via Flickr

Image from page 318 of “With the world’s people : an account of the ethnic origin, primitive estate, early migrations, social evolution, and present conditions and promise of the principal families of men : together with a preliminary inquiry on the time. Via Flickr

This post was originally published on Philosophical Disquisitions.

This is the third edition of the Philosophical Disquisitions Journal Club. The goal of the journal club is to encourage people to read, reflect upon, and debate some of the latest works in philosophy. The club focuses on work being done in the philosophy of religion (broadly defined). This month we’re looking at the following paper:

Sharon Street “If everything happens for a reason, then we don’t know what reasons are: why the price of theism is normative skepticism” in Bergman and Kain (eds) Challenges to Religious and Moral Belief: Disagreement and Evolution (Oxford: OUP, forthcoming)

Longtime readers of this blog will know that I’m a big fan of Sharon Street’s work in metaethics.… Read the rest

Continue Reading

An Anatomy of Paranoia

"Sister Anna," by Carl Fredrik Hill (1887)

“Sister Anna,” by Carl Fredrik Hill (1887)

We all agree that it’s important to question conventional wisdom, and that ideas which are too bizarre for most people to accept may, nonetheless, turn out to be true. Some people, however, seem to reach a tipping point where scores of obsessive strange beliefs feed upon one another to such a degree that they impair the individual’s ability to maintain relationships or function in society. By searching mental health forums, one can find countless posts by concerned individuals who worry that they are losing a loved one to the world of conspiracy. Here is a typical example:

My husband and I have been married for over 3 years (been together 5 years).  For the last two years of our marriage, my husband has become obsessed with conspiracy theories.  Initially, I chalked it up as a new hobby/interest.  But lately (over the past year) his obsession has progressed and has me alarmed.  He spends countless hours on the internet researching conspiracy theories, mostly political (i.e.Read the rest

Continue Reading

James Randi’s “Evidence” Against ESP Turns Out to Be Fabricated

James-Randi-LIAR

Some Disinfonauts might recall that last month I posted a rather scathing commentary in regards to the career of blow-hard skeptical debunker James Randi. Of course I hope people realize that I write polemic rants like this to reflect the negativity that the closed minded “skeptical” community, hardline materialist types, and religious people alike have been directing at anyone with alternate spiritual practices for the vast majority of recorded history. We deal with this condescension constantly and to pretend there isn’t a bias against things like Shamanism, the Occult, or Psi is sort of like pretending there’s no homophobia or misogyny, or that racism is just a thing of the past. For the record, we’re not talking about a fictional “sky-god” but rather the potentiality of the human imagination. It’s incredibly bizarre how many people desperately want to believe that this potentiality doesn’t exist and will eat up anything that reinforces this deeply held belief no matter how short on facts or evidence their claims happen to be.… Read the rest

Continue Reading

Thoughts on James Randi and His Flat Earth Conference for Superstitious Dorks

James Randi

James Randi

I have a confession to make. Before I started writing for Disinfo about a year and a half ago, I wasn’t really familiar with James Randi. I’d heard his name come up a few times on the internet in comments threads regarding fringe spirituality, but that was about it. Much like Carl Sagan’s utterly retarded book The Demon Haunted World (which I make fun of here), I wasn’t super familiar with his M.O., but the more I delved into this stuff, the more I realized I was always going to have to deal with superstitious idiots referencing his “work”. So finally, a couple of weeks ago I decided to spend a minor amount of time on the interwebs actually digging into who this loser is and how he convinced a bunch of seemingly at least semi-intelligent people to passionately raise their pitchforks at anyone insinuating the legitimacy of psi.… Read the rest

Continue Reading

The Myth of Consistent Skepticism

Skeptical Pug is skeptical

Skeptical Pug is skeptical

Todd C. Riniolo and Lee Nisbet writing in the June 2007 Skeptical Enquirer:

Many readers of the Skeptical Inquirer (the authors included) have labeled or referred to ourselves as “skeptics,” which implies objectivity in our approach to evaluating various claims. However, we all have limitations and built-in biases that hinder our ability to apply the methods of skepticism objectively and consistently. Nonskeptics and professed skeptics alike are equally vulnerable to developing beliefs that have not been subjected to rigorous skeptical inquiry. Furthermore, skeptics (like nonskeptics) may refuse to change their viewpoints even in the face of substantial discrediting evidence.

Thus, skeptics would be well served to realize that we are selectively skeptical. Our purpose here is to (a) make clear why no consistent skeptic exists, (b) review the major biases that obstruct our ability to apply skepticism consistently, (c) provide a concrete example of selective skepticism in a great mind (Albert Einstein), and (d) challenge skeptics to reevaluate their own ability to apply the methods of skepticism consistently.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Science Fails Validity Checks

Picture: Wikimedia Commons (CC)

Picture: Wikimedia Commons (CC)

Science works by building on the work of the past. What happens when you check to make sure that work can be trusted?

via The LA Times:

In today’s world, brimful as it is with opinion and falsehoods masquerading as facts, you’d think the one place you can depend on for verifiable facts is science.

You’d be wrong. Many billions of dollars’ worth of wrong.

A few years ago, scientists at the Thousand Oaks biotech firm Amgen set out to double-check the results of 53 landmark papers in their fields of cancer research and blood biology.

The idea was to make sure that research on which Amgen was spending millions of development dollars still held up. They figured that a few of the studies would fail the test — that the original results couldn’t be reproduced because the findings were especially novel or described fresh therapeutic approaches.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

On Wittgenstein’s Skepticism of Sacred Geometry

PIC: PD

Pic: PD

“What are the odds?” I said upon discovering an old classmate in the lobby of the very same hotel in St. Thomas where I had just checked in.  “And look, you’re reading Leibniz too!”  My old classmate was carrying a transcript of Leibniz’s letters to Clarke, and I had a copy of his letters to Arnauld in my bag at that very minute.  Just as we were marveling at the incredible coincidence, in walked the professor under whom we had both studied Continental Rationalism — including a good deal of Leibniz — at university!  In his bag was a biography of Wilhelm Gottfried Leibniz.

“This is too much,” I said.  “The odds of the three of us arriving here, in the US Virgin Islands, on St. Thomas, in this hotel lobby, on April 4th at 3:00 pm, all carrying books on Leibniz…the odds are astronomical!  This can’t be a coincidence.  The probability of this event happening is nearly zero.  There is some meaning, some purpose, in this.  Of that we can be sure.”

The other two slapped me on the mouth for being an idiot, because the odds of the three of us all arriving in the US Virgin Islands, specifically St.… Read the rest

Continue Reading

Top Ten Good Skeptical Arguments Against Global Warming: Roy Spencer, PhD

Picture: Victor Korniyenko (CC)

Picture: Victor Korniyenko (CC)

Climatologist, author, and former NASA scientist Dr. Roy Spencer offers ten good skeptical arguments against global warming. Raw Story published a response to this via The Guardian, if you’d like to read it.

via Top Ten Good Skeptical Arguments « Roy Spencer, PhD.

As suggested by a friend, I’m following up my Top Ten bad global warming arguments list with a Top Ten good arguments list. These are in no particular order, and I might have missed something important.

These ten were just off the top of my head….there’s no telling what might be lingering deeper in my brain.

I have avoided specific alternative causal mechanisms of natural climate change, because I view them individually as speculative. But taken as a whole, they represent a class of unknowns that can’t be just swept under the rug just because we don’t understand them.

For some reason, all of these ended up being phrased as questions, rather than statements.

Read the rest
Continue Reading