"Skeptical" vs. "Skeptic"

giantleap

New Member
Hi - Probably an outlier here. I would say I'm more "skeptical" than a "sceptic". For me, being skeptical is valuing the quality of skepticism vs. labelling oneself "A Sceptic" and then having to protect this label at all costs. I think the former maintains a healthy skeptical openmindedness while the latter can lead to confirmation bias- the same you'd find in someone labelling oneself "A Believer."

I found the site when looking for a good arguments against the recent NYT video taken from the F-18 Hornet of the UFO along the coast of California.


"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand." - Albert Einstein
 

Svartbjørn

Senior Member
Hi - Probably an outlier here. I would say I'm more "skeptical" than a "sceptic". For me, being skeptical is valuing the quality of skepticism vs. labelling oneself "A Sceptic" and then having to protect this label at all costs. I think the former maintains a healthy skeptical openmindedness while the latter can lead to confirmation bias- the same you'd find in someone labelling oneself "A Believer."

I found the site when looking for a good arguments against the recent NYT video taken from the F-18 Hornet of the UFO along the coast of California.


"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand." - Albert Einstein
I think thats how most of the regulars here see themselves.
 

James Elkins II

New Member
First of all, being "A Sceptic" (A Debunker) *is not* about "having to protect this label at all costs." (Oh Really?! No offence, but i've never heard of such put forth and to me just a silly on the face of it IMO! LOL. :D To me, that's a gross understanding of what "A Sceptic" really is.) And sure, maintaining "a healthy openmindedness" is always just a "Given" for any honest sceptic worth his salt.

And it's folks like Mick West et al who are the positive ones, the very Sceptics and dissenters, who simply speak-up and "illuminate the terrain of what's wrong as a first step in improving it." Illuminating the Terrain. They're outspoken when they need to be, and they debate about what's messed-up, why it is. It's actually the Skeptics and Debunkers that are absolutely necessary for this world to stay civilized. And there just aren't enough of them. All we can do is honestly inquire and question, instead of defensively asserting and assuming.

Sceptics have no need to prove anything. This sort of "believer presuppositional" and magical-thinking is illogical, so asking one to disprove a negative is an unreasonable request. Occam's Razor can also be invoked as a guide to making the fewest assumptions, and "assuming a priori" is a major assumption (an assumption that is true without further proof or need to prove it.) So the burden of proof and extraordinary-claim lay squarely on the believer's head.

However, the "proper default position" is not the "open-mindedness" trotted out by many empty-headed fools who want to hold open the door just a crack on the fantastic, supernatural and obviously ridiculous woo-claims. (That's just sloppy-thinking IMO.) Agnosticism *is not* the proper default position. That is the product of a kind of sloppy thinking that A Sceptic needs to be on guard against!

The "proper default position" is atheism (or nonbelief) and *not believe any extraordinary or positive claim until there is sufficience scientific (falsifiable) evidence available. Those claiming to know have the burden of proof to demonstrate that this is the case. And in the lack of any convincing evidence, the proper default position is *not to accept their claim.*

I notice "the argument from ignorance" also comes up a lot in general discussions of the supernatural, where believers use their ignorance of the cause of some experience they’ve had as justification for thinking that a supernatural explanation is just possible and likely.

No matter how well presented some of the comments are, the Believer's default position is always toward the irrational, magical-thinking, supernatualism and woo in general. So if one chooses to believe then anything is, was and will always be possible. (For them, No basic research, inquiry, study or understanding is necessary!)

The Universe is still a magical, mysterious and very fantastical-place *but which operates on natural-laws and rules* we have only recently begun to parse.

23-Skidoo.
 

John85

Member
The Universe is still a magical, mysterious and very fantastical-place *but which operates on natural-laws and rules* we have only recently begun to parse.
I agree with this. But I would go further and say that identifying oneself as 'a skeptic' (or worse still, a 'debunker') means committing yourself to the belief that the natural laws once properly understood will furnish us with a view of the world that is little different from the one we already recognize.

I do not believe our prevailing paradigms will survive future discoveries related to consciousness. Subjectivity is itself the biggest raspberry in the face of materialism. If sentience were not experienced by debunkers, it would be dismissed as woo. No one has ever seen it, taken a picture of it, kicked its tires or brought back samples of it. How can you seriously believe that this non-material stuff called 'experience' resides within a physical brain? (They ask). Where is it? And do you really believe that this invisible consciousness stuff interacts with material neurons to move your hand as you type? Next you'll be claiming that thought can affect distant objects...
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
But I would go further and say that identifying oneself as 'a skeptic' (or worse still, a 'debunker') means committing yourself to the belief that the natural laws once properly understood will furnish us with a view of the world that is little different from the one we already recognize.
No it doesn't. It simply means checking the evidence behind claims. Anyone interested in science recognizes that the quantum underpinnings of the universe are very weird, and generally not understood (I don't understand them). I'm pretty sure a genuine understanding of the natural laws would be pretty mindblowing. It also might not be humanly possible.

All we can do now is fit models to observations, test and improve our models, and verify our observations. That's science, and essentially that's skepticism.
 

John85

Member
identifying oneself as 'a skeptic' (or worse still, a 'debunker') means committing yourself to the belief that the natural laws once properly understood will furnish us with a view of the world that is little different from the one we already recognize
No it doesn't. It simply means checking the evidence behind claims. Anyone interested in science recognizes that the quantum underpinnings of the universe are very weird, and generally not understood (I don't understand them). I'm pretty sure a genuine understanding of the natural laws would be pretty mindblowing. It also might not be humanly possible.

All we can do now is fit models to observations, test and improve our models, and verify our observations. That's science, and essentially that's skepticism.
There are two things to distinguish here: one is how to check the evidence behind the claims; the other is which claims to check. Debunking can be scientific in its method, but the selection of claims to check is not objective. Debunking is therefore not a value-free or bias-free activity, and cannot be cloaked entirely with the authority of science. In 'debunking', claims of difference are selected for taking apart, and it does seem to happen quite often that the greatest skeptical efforts are expended on the weakest, most eyecatching claims of difference, with the explicit aim of defending the normal, common, and quotidian from challenge. That is not to deny the value of debunking according to the purposes which motivate it and the broader benefit it can offer to civil society, especially noting today's concerns with fake news. MB has clearly stated aims, and an admirably frank account of why it was set up. But it's not science. Science is about exploring, taking intellectual risks and developing new knowledge. I would challenge you to direct more discussion toward 'a genuine understanding of the natural laws', and agree it would be mindblowing.
 

Inti

Active Member
I agree with this. But I would go further and say that identifying oneself as 'a skeptic' (or worse still, a 'debunker') means committing yourself to the belief that the natural laws once properly understood will furnish us with a view of the world that is little different from the one we already recognize.

I do not believe our prevailing paradigms will survive future discoveries related to consciousness. Subjectivity is itself the biggest raspberry in the face of materialism. If sentience were not experienced by debunkers, it would be dismissed as woo. No one has ever seen it, taken a picture of it, kicked its tires or brought back samples of it. How can you seriously believe that this non-material stuff called 'experience' resides within a physical brain? (They ask). Where is it? And do you really believe that this invisible consciousness stuff interacts with material neurons to move your hand as you type? Next you'll be claiming that thought can affect distant objects...
But your definition would commit us to believing that present science is more or less compete. Both relativity and quantum theory showed that the world is very different to they way we saw it at the start if the 20th century, for example.

Skepticism is basically basing our belifs on the best evidence we have.
 

John85

Member
But your definition would commit us to believing that present science is more or less compete. Both relativity and quantum theory showed that the world is very different to they way we saw it at the start if the 20th century, for example.
No, I agree 100% that our science is not complete.
 

John85

Member
Plenty of other forums for that:
http://www.scienceforums.net/forum/6-physics/

Metabunk is about checking claims of evidence to see if they are correct, and communicating this when errors are found.
Indeed, but it contains a fair amount of loaded language regarding those whose views it seeks to disprove. I'm thinking of 'rabbit hole', 'believers', 'conspiracy theorists', 'truthers', and the like. By contrast, 'checking the evidence behind claims' is presented as neutral, objective and in essence scientific. In reality, there is a purpose and interest at play in the selection of claims to debunk, which could equally be analyzed, critiqued, and psychologized.
 

giantleap

New Member
Hi James....I agree with your description of a sceptic as one of atheism/ non belief - it's why I wouldn't call myself one. I guess I'd be more of a suspicious agnostic.

Respectfully, though, your response also included ad hominem attacks on those you see in opposition to yourself. I wasn't sure if you meant my brand of open-mindedness but no offense taken regardless. But your words betray exactly the kind of rigidity and arrogance that I often find with self-professed sceptics.

Specifically writing... "However, the 'proper default position' is not the 'open-mindedness" trotted out by many empty-headed fools who want to hold open the door just a crack on the fantastic, supernatural and obviously ridiculous woo-claims."

The simplistic labelling and circular logic notwithstanding, I'd say it's certainly worth having a peak thru that door as long as one is armed with a healthy dose of skepticism. With a mindset of "convince me" rather than "you're wrong". To each his own, but I find allowing oneself to walk on unproven ground on occasion, keeps the mind open and supple. (And no, this hasn't led to a proliferation of 'healing crystals' in my home and I still find horoscope chatter deathly boring and useless.)

It's why my intro post included the Einstein quote about imagination being more important than knowledge. Because human advancement and discovery is often fired first by imagination and intuition. One's own skepticism should follow and flesh out, certify or reject accordingly. And one should also welcome critique in the public sphere, be it thru the sceptic or the scientist.

In my case, I don't see being willing to entertain the seemingly fantastic, while also being rational, as mutually exclusive. They are merely two vitally important facets of the human psyche, each in service to each other. Two wheels of a cart. In my opinion, progress towards a greater understanding of our world requires both.
 

Landru

Moderator
Staff member
Indeed, but it contains a fair amount of loaded language regarding those whose views it seeks to disprove. I'm thinking of 'rabbit hole', 'believers', 'conspiracy theorists', 'truthers', and the like. By contrast, 'checking the evidence behind claims' is presented as neutral, objective and in essence scientific. In reality, there is a purpose and interest at play in the selection of claims to debunk, which could equally be analyzed, critiqued, and psychologized.
No there really isn't. If you follow the posting guidelines all claims are available for discussion. This may not be the site for you. There are plenty of sites that may fit your requirements better.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Indeed, but it contains a fair amount of loaded language regarding those whose views it seeks to disprove. I'm thinking of 'rabbit hole', 'believers', 'conspiracy theorists', 'truthers', and the like. By contrast, 'checking the evidence behind claims' is presented as neutral, objective and in essence scientific. In reality, there is a purpose and interest at play in the selection of claims to debunk, which could equally be analyzed, critiqued, and psychologized.
You are overthinking it. I use those words as simple descriptors. "Rabbit hole" in particular is a very neutral term, frequently used by believers.

And one has to distinguish somehow between people who believe in a particular theory and those who do not. The terms I use are well understood.
 

deirdre

Moderator
Staff member
Indeed, but it contains a fair amount of loaded language regarding those whose views it seeks to disprove. I'm thinking of 'rabbit hole', 'believers', 'conspiracy theorists', 'truthers', and the like. By contrast, 'checking the evidence behind claims' is presented as neutral, objective and in essence scientific. In reality, there is a purpose and interest at play in the selection of claims to debunk, which could equally be analyzed, critiqued, and psychologized.
I don't think any skeptic wants to call 9/11 Truthers "truthers". They picked that title for themselves. They most often don't tell the truth, so it's an unappetizing title. If people use the title "Truthers" in a mocking way that is because, as you should admit, a lot of their claims of evidence are total bunk -scientifically proven bunk and yet they don't stop repeating the claim.


and it does seem to happen quite often that the greatest skeptical efforts are expended on the weakest, most eyecatching claims of difference
maybe because the weakest, most eye catching claims are the ones that go viral and are the ones non-debunkers are believing.
 

NoParty

Senior Member
...I would go further and say that identifying oneself as 'a skeptic' (or worse still, a 'debunker') means committing yourself to the belief that the natural laws once properly understood will furnish us with a view of the world that is little different from the one we already recognize.

...If sentience were not experienced by debunkers, it would be dismissed as woo. ...

do you really believe that this invisible consciousness stuff interacts with material neurons to move your hand as you type?
...Debunking is therefore not a value-free or bias-free activity, and cannot be cloaked entirely with the authority of science.
...it contains a fair amount of loaded language regarding those whose views it seeks to disprove. I'm thinking of 'rabbit hole', 'believers', 'conspiracy theorists', 'truthers', and the like. By contrast, 'checking the evidence behind claims' is presented as neutral, objective and in essence scientific.
So you're saying that all that is necessary to pronounce the fatal flaws of debunkers,
is to mischaracterize them a bit?
 

John85

Member
You are overthinking it. I use those words as simple descriptors. "Rabbit hole" in particular is a very neutral term, frequently used by believers.

And one has to distinguish somehow between people who believe in a particular theory and those who do not. The terms I use are well understood.
Ok, I accept the intention - and this is a forum where politeness does rule. I believe it is nonetheless problematic to use much of the above-quoted language. 'Rabbit hole' trivializes whatever it refers to, whoever uses the term. And distinguishing between 'believers' and those who do not believe has two implications which are unhelpful. Firstly, it is not necessary to distinguish between groups of people based on one or several issues on which people disagree (unrealistic and leaves the door open for prejudice and herd mentality), and secondly, it can lead to a concern with the person rather than the evidence. Persuading people requires empathy, as noted elsewhere, but I would say the above language is more likely to divide and distance people, which makes understanding and communication more difficult.

And unfortunately, I have strayed into it too - I do not like referring to 'skeptics' or 'debunkers'. It's a mode of thought, not a person.
 

John85

Member
So you're saying that all that is necessary to pronounce the fatal flaws of debunkers,
is to mischaracterize them a bit?
No - it was just intended to provoke thought on the idea that debunking is an activity which can be characterized, and is purposeful, interested and influenced by values, rather than being purely neutral and objective. Like the difference between being skeptical about something, and being 'a skeptic'. If you know that someone identifies themselves as 'a skeptic', you can anticipate that they are applying their skepticism toward certain targets. The selection of targets is where values come in. And what is valued most often, it seems to me, is defending normality from challenge. Yet of course we should anticipate that, somehow (and I don't necessarily mean from woo-quarters), change to the dominant paradigms will come. We will be the ignorant folk people look back on who still thought x, y, z at the turn of the 21st century. We'll miss that change if the default stance is saying "No" to difference.
 
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John85

Member
What do you want us to call 9/11 conspiracy believers?
That's an interesting question. If you look in the conspiracy literature, using the term ironically, you'll see that one of the first items usually dealt with is the meaning and significance of the term 'conspiracy theory'. It is treated in one of several ways. It is often 'owned' by the author, who will then attempt to neutralize or subvert its derogatory intent by either quoting from a dictionary definition of 'conspiracy', or by applying the term to the government account, calling it the 'official conspiracy theory'. People who do that include David Ray Griffin and Graeme MacQueen. Mike Ruppert fires back with 'conspiracy fact'. Others seem to dodge the term by talking about 'alternative theories'.

But perhaps the problem is as much in the need to groupify 'them' as it is what to call 'them'. It should be arguments that we're dealing with.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
The hard problem of consciousness is total bunk. Or maybe it's not. Wouldn't know from looking at the site.
It's not something that's you can provide evidence about, as it's based entirely on subjective self-reporting. So it's not really a suitable topic, as we focus on claims of evidence.
 

John85

Member
It's not something that's you can provide evidence about, as it's based entirely on subjective self-reporting. So it's not really a suitable topic, as we focus on claims of evidence.
Debates over the hard problem are not based entirely on self-reporting. As Daniel Dennett observes, the fact that consciousness is widely shared means we all think we're experts on it, but actually it can be studied in a lab and can be pinned down within a materialist paradigm, and does not pose a 'hard problem' at all. He uses a great deal more evidence than subjective self-reporting to make his case. But anyway, I don't think that is the reason the hard problem is not to be found on MB. It is because it is a topic which, wrongly I believe, is not considered threatening to common sense in the same way that saying George Bush might have had some degree of responsibility for 9/11 offends numerous sensibilities.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
It is because it is a topic which, wrongly I believe, is not considered threatening to common sense in the same way that saying George Bush might have had some degree of responsibility for 9/11 offends numerous sensibilities.
Nonsense. Here were examine claims of evidence. If you don't want to do that then go elsewhere. This is not a philosophy forum.
 

deirdre

Moderator
Staff member
That's an interesting question. If you look in the conspiracy literature, using the term ironically, you'll see that one of the first items usually dealt with is the meaning and significance of the term 'conspiracy theory'. It is treated in one of several ways. It is often 'owned' by the author, who will then attempt to neutralize or subvert its derogatory intent by either quoting from a dictionary definition of 'conspiracy', or by applying the term to the government account, calling it the 'official conspiracy theory'. People who do that include David Ray Griffin and Graeme MacQueen. Mike Ruppert fires back with 'conspiracy fact'. Others seem to dodge the term by talking about 'alternative theories'.

But perhaps the problem is as much in the need to groupify 'them' as it is what to call 'them'. It should be arguments that we're dealing with.
you didn't answer my question. We need to use labels in communication. What would you like us to call you?
 

deirdre

Moderator
Staff member
The hard problem of consciousness is total bunk. Or maybe it's not. Wouldn't know from looking at the site.
I don't even understand what you are talking about... So I cant help you with providing you debunks on the topic. Perhaps YOU should do it. You are free to start threads too you know. If you read claimed evidence regarding consciousness and you think it is bunk, then debunk it.
 

John85

Member
I don't even understand what you are talking about... So I cant help you with providing you debunks on the topic. Perhaps YOU should do it. You are free to start threads too you know. If you read claimed evidence regarding consciousness and you think it is bunk, then debunk it.
It was just an example of a topic which is not dealt with on MB because it does not threaten common sense, not a topic which I would like to start up.

you didn't answer my question. We need to use labels in communication. What would you like us to call you?
The label you use (or whether you use one) is your choice, but the broader point made was what those labels mean and how they influence communication, especially when trying to persuade. Consider them wisely, and I will attempt to as well!
 

Inti

Active Member
Debates over the hard problem are not based entirely on self-reporting. As Daniel Dennett observes, the fact that consciousness is widely shared means we all think we're experts on it, but actually it can be studied in a lab and can be pinned down within a materialist paradigm, and does not pose a 'hard problem' at all. He uses a great deal more evidence than subjective self-reporting to make his case. But anyway, I don't think that is the reason the hard problem is not to be found on MB. It is because it is a topic which, wrongly I believe, is not considered threatening to common sense in the same way that saying George Bush might have had some degree of responsibility for 9/11 offends numerous sensibilities.
I have debated issues around consciousness online, and face to face in my local pub philosophy group, I would argue that John Searle debunks computational theories in cognitive science, for instance. But I have never raised them on Metabunk, because they are outside the scope here.

Likewise I regularly debate with climate change deniers, but there are better forums for that, such as Skeptical Science or Real Climate. But I don't know anywhere better for debating and discussing conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, paranormal claims, and so on, n a focused, fact-based and reasonably rational and polite way. Horses for courses.
 

deirdre

Moderator
Staff member
But I have never raised them on Metabunk, because they are outside the scope here.
yea I just watched his Ted Talk and skimmed some CTM write ups.. can't see how that topic would fit within MB guidelines. I mean he says "I think I will raise my arm and my arm raises. everytime" obviously can be debunked by pointing out people with neurological disabilities (or broken arms). But sounds pretty trivial to bother to bring up.
 

Inti

Active Member
hypocrite much?
yea I just watched his Ted Talk and skimmed some CTM write ups.. can't see how that topic would fit within MB guidelines. I mean he says "I think I will raise my arm and my arm raises. everytime" obviously can be debunked by pointing out people with neurological disabilities (or broken arms). But sounds pretty trivial to bother to
yea I just watched his Ted Talk and skimmed some CTM write ups.. can't see how that topic would fit within MB guidelines. I mean he says "I think I will raise my arm and my arm raises. everytime" obviously can be debunked by pointing out people with neurological disabilities (or broken arms). But sounds pretty trivial to bother to bring up.
Not to stray too far off topic, I don't think you are representing Searle's views very fairly, and certainly not addressing his central points on mind, consciousness and computers. Best explanation is his book "The Rediscovery of the Mind" However, I agree that the whole discussion would not fit within Metabunks method or purpose.
 

Keith Beachy

Senior Member
Hi - Probably an outlier here. I would say I'm more "skeptical" than a "sceptic". ...
That makes sense, you don't have to be a skeptic to be skeptical about things.
It seems logical to apply skepticism when confronted with claims and ideas which reject logic and reason from people who accept and support what they believe over what they can prove.
 

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