The Usual Retorts: Conspiracy Theorists’ Top 10 Misconceptions of Debunkers

Whitebeard

Senior Member
Ok let me see if I''m getting this right.

I paint a big white X on the pavement (sidewalk) beside a tall building, stand a philosopher, a scientist and a conspiracy theorist on said X then climb to top of the building, shout 'look out below' and drop a grand piano on the X. It will take say 5 seconds for the piano to complete the fall.

The Philosopher will look up and contemplate the existence of the piano, the reality of the situation and ponder if the impact would have any real 'impact' on the state of humanity as a whole.

The conspiracy theorist would wonder who was throwing pianos at them and what part of the nefarious NWO plot this 'false flag' was directly related to.

The scientist would see a bit of Newtonian physics in action and move out of the way.
 

Svartbjørn

Senior Member
Hi Svartbjørn, thanks for responding (and cool name, btw).

Unfortunately that doesn't exactly address my question. My point was this: due to philosophical relativism different people will ascribe different weights to the same argument/evidence. (The controversy over relativism regards whether relativism forms a sound basis for inquiry and a proper definition of 'knowledge' - but that people's weighting of logical arguments and empirical evidence differs is an indisputable reality.) For example, Noam Chomsky and Alan Dershowitz approach the Israel-Palestine controversy with essentially the same set of sources, but based on those sources arrive at a somewhat different understanding of the historical facts and a radically different understanding of contemporary realities. So if, for example, Chomsky were to tell Dershowitz 'You must take into account XYZ source' or 'XYZ logical argument,' he would not be gaining any ground, as Dershowitz's evaluation and weighting of that source or syllogism may be very different. (Chomsky and Dershowitz have in fact debated this topic, and this essentially describes most of what happened.)
First, thank you for the compliment.. its a nickname I got from a Norwegian friend of mine many years ago. Secondly, its nice to run into intellectuals (which is why Im here.. the vast majority of the members here are very intellectual, especially in their fields of expertise)so Im definitely enjoying the back and forth.

Now.. as to your post...unfortunately, all things are not equal.. so there is no philosophical relativism or epistemology. Just because I choose to believe that up is down and down is up or that gravity is a figment of man's imagination does not give it merit, nor does it weigh the same as scientific evidence that gravity does exist and that down is down and up is up in a gravitational environment. The same can be said for conspiracies and conspiracy theories. I can want something to be true all day long, but if the evidence isnt there to support it, then my wanting it to be true doesnt make it so. There-in lies the difference and why the philosophical aspects are a moot point.

I love philosophy.. I love philosophical discussion and debate, but philosophy is a personal choice and/or a mental exercise, it has its place but not when dealing with evidence. If a person really and truly looks at evidence, and they are honest with themselves and what they're seeing, then they will most likely draw the same or very similar conclusion that others see when they do the same thing.

Your example of palestine is more a philosophical topic and debate because the history has been mired and marred by politics over the decades. Those particular individuals you speak of see what they see through the colored lenses of their particular ideologies.. its a debate, period. No one cares what really happened, because its politically insignificant as far as those parties involved are concerned.

If you look at chemtrails, on the other hand, its been shown over and over and over.. scientifically and mathematically that its not possible for the trails people call chemtrails to exist because the amount of material required to create them in the quantities claimed are beyond the lifting limits of the aircraft themselves. It shows a lack of understanding and knowledge of the science behind powered flight and the sheer mass required for it to occur as proposed by those who say that they're real. This isnt a belief, its fact... its backed by physics, science and mathematics.

On the other hand, there are things that science -cant- explain, and science is ok with.. scientists are ok with that.. in fact they PREFER that, because it means there's more out there to learn.. more to figure out. So no, not all points of view are equal.. they never have been, nor will they ever be.. what IS equal, are the individuals rights to HAVE those points of view. Its when points of view begin to get suppressed, or when people are made to feel like complete fools or are told they arent worthy to breath the same air as others that issues arise.

I may not agree with the things Alex Jones has to say, or the way he uses tactics of fear and panic to peddle his wares.. I dont like his opinions, for the most part, because I personally think he's full of shit... but I have no problem with him expressing them UNTIL he starts forcing his opinion and point of view down others throats and tells them that they're stupid and blind. This is the same reason I dont agree with James Randi or Richard Dawkins.. though to Dawkins' credit he's relaxed a LOT over the last couple years. I agree with their science and their reasoning, but I dont agree with their presentation. They tend to come across as haughty and arrogant, and in much the same way Alex Jones does. The evidence they provide though, shows no bias... If Dawkins makes a claim and conducts and experiment then his notes and experiment are made available to anyone and everyone who has the ability to test it.. if his experiment fails replication then he goes back to the drawing board.

This is where things start to get muddy.. Scientists are human, they have egos.. they make mistakes. Science said for ages that Einstein was wrong, that his theories of special and general relativity were impossible because they broke the laws of known science at the time.. yet the predictions his theories made were shown to have merit. The down side is, his theories cover such massive distances, masses and sizes that there's no way (as of yet) to test his theories in a lab on large scale... though (and correct me if Im wrong here) the LHC was designed to try to do exactly that in some ways. This is where people mistake theory for belief. They think that just because something cant be proven, that it must automatically be a belief, when in reality its just the opposite.

Much of this is due to different default assumptions/proclivities of different people. If person A tends to distrust authority figures and person B trusts authority figures and acquaintances more equally, then when a mutual friend claims to have an extraterrestrial encounter and this claim is disputed by government and academic sources chances are high that person A will believe the encounter occurred while person B will disagree. And it would be difficult for either to persuade the other without a shift in the thinking of the other occurring; and if one did persuade the other, it would likely trigger a change in the other's appraisal of certain people's/categories of people's trustworthiness.
This is only partially true and is a bit of a false dichotomy. As a philosopher you know full well that people fall into a LOT of categories. For example.. I dont have an automatic trust of authority, but I dont automatically DIStrust it either. If a person approaches me and goes on about ETs, abductions etc.. I ask for proof. Not because I trust authority, but because I dont automatically trust anything that any other person says. There's a video in another thread that I'll link here that explains it MUCH better than I can. Suffice it to say that unless I see evidence of a cover up, or ETs visiting this planet Im not going to be convinced. It isnt a matter of trust.. this could be a person that I trust with my life, and I would still ask for evidence.

https://www.metabunk.org/threads/why-do-people-believe.1485/page-2#post-145579 (post 64.. scroll up a bit)

So the 'gentleness' of the skeptic's rebuttal and whether he takes aim at a larger theory or a very specific claim is not at the heart of our discussion; rather, it's the difference in epistemology between the skeptic and believer. I certainly would agree that it's always better to approach a disagreement politely, impersonally and with a cool head (though to be honest I found Clock's post to be rife with loaded attack terms like 'nutty', 'loony', etc, and there were a couple of logical errors as well... but that's not directly relevant now), and that it's often advisable to debate the little points rather than the whole picture.

SR1419 posted a link to a sub-forum for ex-CT believers (thanks for that btw, SR1419). It's all rather interesting. What's relevant here is that it seems that for most of them the disavowing of CT belief was at least partially a result of - and subsequently became a further cause of - a change in their underlying epistemology. One poster, who had studied philosophy, actually contrasted the epistemology he studied and applied in philosophy with that he used to justify his CTs.
On most of this we agree.. and this is why Mick has the rules he has here.. being insulting, degrading etc is generally frowned upon.. though not always in public.. Ive made a few statements here and there that Mick's had to pull me off to give me a warning here and there. I'm human.. I have bad days, I let my emotions get the better of my analytical mind and I get sardonic and a bit cynical now and then.. I feel frustration at the sheer amount of ignorance in the world and the fact that people just dont take 10 seconds to actually look something up before they go off screaming that the flipping sky is falling... or in most cases filled with CIA nanobots that are invading our bodies and programming us to serve the alphabet org thats in charge of the world.. this week.

But my question was more about whether conventional 'here's a fact - and here's a fact - and here's another' debate tactics could work in this type of disagreement, where, unlike in most academic settings, there is no foundational agreement on methodology and epistemology.
On this, we wont agree very much. There IS a foundational agreement on methodology.. its existed for centuries.

The Scientific Method.

This goes back to what I was talking about before.. you force your theory to fit the evidence.. you dont force the evidence into your theory. If you do, its an automatic and irreparable bias.. a confirmation bias in a lot of cases. "The Sky was much more blue when I was child" is a prime example.. and something covered in another topic that I think youd enjoy reading.

In short, I agree with the spirit of what you're getting at.. the evidence doesnt support it for the most part. There are exceptions to every rule, there always are.. its an imperfect world because we're imperfect beings.. but as long as we stick to evidence, we use the scientific method and we truly keep an open mind (IE willing to accept that we're wrong, even if it dings our ego) then we can find common ground that not all opinions and points of view are equal.. just that everyone has the equal right to have said opinions and points of view.

*edited for clarity and a couple of mis-spellings.
 
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Santa's sidekick

Senior Member
First, thank you for the compliment.. its a nickname I got from a Norwegian friend of mine many years ago.
I see your profile picture is quite literal!

This is only partially true and is a bit of a false dichotomy. As a philosopher you know full well that people fall into a LOT of categories. For example.. I dont have an automatic trust of authority, but I dont automatically DIStrust it either. If a person approaches me and goes on about ETs, abductions etc.. I ask for proof. Not because I trust authority, but because I dont automatically trust anything that any other person says. There's a video in another thread that I'll link here that explains it MUCH better than I can. Suffice it to say that unless I see evidence of a cover up, or ETs visiting this planet Im not going to be convinced. It isnt a matter of trust.. this could be a person that I trust with my life, and I would still ask for evidence.
People are certainly much more complex than my simple example made them out to be.

as long as we stick to evidence, we use the scientific method and we truly keep an open mind (IE willing to accept that we're wrong, even if it dings our ego) then we can find common ground that not all opinions and points of view are equal.. just that everyone has the equal right to have said opinions and points of view.
'As long as we stick to evidence, we use the scientific method and we truly keep an open mind' - in other words, 'As long as we have a very similar epistemology!' - 'then we can find common ground....'
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
As long as we stick to evidence, we use the scientific method and we truly keep an open mind' - in other words, 'As long as we have a very similar epistemology!' - 'then we can find common ground....'
You can still find common ground by understanding the differences between your epistemologies, and lowering expectations.
 

Svartbjørn

Senior Member
'As long as we stick to evidence, we use the scientific method and we truly keep an open mind' - in other words, 'As long as we have a very similar epistemology!' - 'then we can find common ground....'
No.. you missed the rest of that. Keeping an open mind means being willing to accept that you could be wrong.. or you could have made a mistake, its not and espitemology, its accepting that you're human.. Espitemology infers belief.. science is about facts and evidence.. NOT belief. Thats the major difference. As I said, you can believe anything you want, but if you want others to accept it you have to have evidence.. when there's evidence its no longer a belief. An easier analogy would be from another post I made in reference to frozen water vapor..There's no such thing.. because by the time water vapor freezes, its no longer a vapor, its an aerosol.. and they're two TOTALLY different things.

Facts CAN start as a belief, or a feeling.. but once you begin to gather evidence, it becomes a hypothesis.. once the hypothesis is tested and passes multiple tests, it becomes fact.. thats not to say that facts cant change or known facts can be proven to be false.. but thats the beauty of science, it allows you to be wrong.. science WANTS to be wrong. When you start saying "I believe this or that" and STOP.. there's no room for learning. When you say "Gee, I wonder, I'll bet THIS might happen (making a prediction) if I do XYZ, then you're experimenting, you're learning. Does that make more sense?

*edited for punctuation and caps.
 
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Santa's sidekick

Senior Member
No.. you missed the rest of that. Keeping an open mind means being willing to accept that you could be wrong.. or you could have made a mistake, its not and espitemology, its accepting that you're human.. Espitemology infers belief.. science is about facts and evidence.. NOT belief. Thats the major difference. As I said, you can believe anything you want, but if you want others to accept it you have to have evidence.. when there's evidence its no longer a belief. An easier analogy would be from another post I made in reference to frozen water vapor..There's no such thing.. because by the time water vapor freezes, its no longer a vapor, its an aerosol.. and they're two TOTALLY different things.

Facts CAN start as a belief, or a feeling.. but once you begin to gather evidence, it becomes a hypothesis.. once the hypothesis is tested and passes multiple tests, it becomes fact.. thats not to say that facts cant change or known facts can be proven to be false.. but thats the beauty of science, it allows you to be wrong.. science WANTS to be wrong. When you start saying "I believe this or that" and STOP.. there's no room for learning. When you say "Gee, I wonder, I'll bet THIS might happen (making a prediction) if I do XYZ, then you're experimenting, you're learning. Does that make more sense?

*edited for punctuation and caps.
I hope we're using the same definition of epistemology - mine is, in the immortal words of Merriam Webster: 'The study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity'. This is not a belief v knowledge thing; it's the basic framework for determining that an item of information is (in the broadest possible meaning of the term) is 'factual'.

Your 'framework for determining truth' (to substitute a clearer phrase) may not be the same as another's. Eg, a consensus of scientists may convince you that humans are related to apes, but someone who has very little faith in the scientific community will not be convinced. For you, it will be a 'scientific fact', as certain as the knowledge that the Earth orbits the sun; for her, it will be absolute bunk. Again, this is an oversimplification, but it's the best I can do.

Even within certain academic disciplines, we can sometimes find different streams of thought based on their different epistemologies: I'm thinking particularly of the positivism v empiricism divide in sociology and psychology. An empiricist may find Durkheim's theory of the social super-organism to be pie-in-the-sky, while to a positivist it's as clear as day.
 

Svartbjørn

Senior Member
I hope we're using the same definition of epistemology - mine is, in the immortal words of Merriam Webster: 'The study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity'. This is not a belief v knowledge thing; it's the basic framework for determining that an item of information is (in the broadest possible meaning of the term) is 'factual'.

I was going by this definition:


Your 'framework for determining truth' (to substitute a clearer phrase) may not be the same as another's. Eg, a consensus of scientists may convince you that humans are related to apes, but someone who has very little faith in the scientific community will not be convinced. For you, it will be a 'scientific fact', as certain as the knowledge that the Earth orbits the sun; for her, it will be absolute bunk. Again, this is an oversimplification, but it's the best I can do.
I understand what you're saying, but this is still belief vs evidence.. creation vs evolution. Those who dont subscribe to evolution (for the most part) fall into the camp of creationism. There are some varying degrees.. IE people who are evolutionary creationists.. but thats an entirely different topic.

Even within certain academic disciplines, we can sometimes find different streams of thought based on their different epistemologies: I'm thinking particularly of the positivism v empiricism divide in sociology and psychology. An empiricist may find Durkheim's theory of the social super-organism to be pie-in-the-sky, while to a positivist it's as clear as day.
This is true, but this is still not epistemology... Most of the time its a disagreement as to whether or not the evidence presented is valid or not, if other avenues have been explored, if there are other explainations.. its part of the scientific process. Evidence vs belief.

As I said, I do understand what you're trying to get at, and please dont take this as nitpicking.. I'm attempting to answer you, point for point, as best as possible without resorting to semantics.. I know it feels like semantics.. Ive had to go back several times and reread just to make sure that Im not getting into semantics. As you said, its a difficult conversation to have, mainly because language is so restrictive. I hope this has helped clarify my position better and hasnt just frustrated you.
 

Santa's sidekick

Senior Member
I was going by this definition:




I understand what you're saying, but this is still belief vs evidence.. creation vs evolution. Those who dont subscribe to evolution (for the most part) fall into the camp of creationism. There are some varying degrees.. IE people who are evolutionary creationists.. but thats an entirely different topic.



This is true, but this is still not epistemology... Most of the time its a disagreement as to whether or not the evidence presented is valid or not, if other avenues have been explored, if there are other explainations.. its part of the scientific process. Evidence vs belief.

As I said, I do understand what you're trying to get at, and please dont take this as nitpicking.. I'm attempting to answer you, point for point, as best as possible without resorting to semantics.. I know it feels like semantics.. Ive had to go back several times and reread just to make sure that Im not getting into semantics. As you said, its a difficult conversation to have, mainly because language is so restrictive. I hope this has helped clarify my position better and hasnt just frustrated you.
I think the crux of our disagreement may be this: I do not believe there is a difference between 'justified belief' and 'opinion' (to use your phraseology). There are some things that you believe to be true; in your mind, these are 'justified beliefs'. There are other things that you are less certain of; these things are not 'beliefs' at all, as you do not fully believe them.

What makes the things you believe 'justified beliefs' to you is the fact that they are justified based on your epistemology. To someone with a different epistemology, your 'justified beliefs' are merely your opinions. It's analogous to how your right is left to someone facing you.

(Of course the term 'opinion' can also mean 'taste', but here we are using it to mean 'personal belief'.)
 

Svartbjørn

Senior Member
I think the crux of our disagreement may be this: I do not believe there is a difference between 'justified belief' and 'opinion' (to use your phraseology). There are some things that you believe to be true; in your mind, these are 'justified beliefs'. There are other things that you are less certain of; these things are not 'beliefs' at all, as you do not fully believe them.

What makes the things you believe 'justified beliefs' to you is the fact that they are justified based on your epistemology. To someone with a different epistemology, your 'justified beliefs' are merely your opinions. It's analogous to how your right is left to someone facing you.

(Of course the term 'opinion' can also mean 'taste', but here we are using it to mean 'personal belief'.)
I agree for the most part.. but to me the crux is the fact we coming back to the word belief. Belief is unsubstantiated... usually untested and/or unverifiable. Science isnt a belief.. it is, it isnt, or can it/will it? Belief tends to be a be all end all. God created the universe, so thats all we should care about. That is a belief. The universe was created by a big bang.. this can be tested.. what's MISSING is WHAT is the big bang, where did it come from, how does something come from nothing? It literally invokes question. It creates a drive to figure things out and try to fit the puzzle pieces together, while belief just..... stops.

When it comes to being skeptical... I want evidence. If you can show me evidence that God created the universe, and that the big bang is an extension of his being (or hers.. depending on your belief system), then Im willing to accept it... I'll even be willing to believe in God, or A god, or several gods... whatever the case is.

I dont accept things at face value.. not because Im unwilling, but because it doesnt allow for questions.. now that, you could call a belief I suppose.. but mainly because I dont have a word in my vocabulary to adequately express what Im trying to get across. Our biggest limiting factor is language. It takes an extremely creative mind to come up with brand new words to express complex situations, like emotions... and I think thats another major issue we're running into.. I have the ability to have emotion, but I remove that when Im examining evidence.. my emotions will cloud my judgement. I cant remove them completely.. Im not Vulcan, but I can limit their influence. Does that make more sense.. or are we dancing in circles? I dont want this to turn into a pedantic back and forth going round and round and round not getting anywhere.
 

Spectrar Ghost

Senior Member
I think the crux of our disagreement may be this: I do not believe there is a difference between 'justified belief' and 'opinion' (to use your phraseology). There are some things that you believe to be true; in your mind, these are 'justified beliefs'. There are other things that you are less certain of; these things are not 'beliefs' at all, as you do not fully believe them.

What makes the things you believe 'justified beliefs' to you is the fact that they are justified based on your epistemology. To someone with a different epistemology, your 'justified beliefs' are merely your opinions. It's analogous to how your right is left to someone facing you.

(Of course the term 'opinion' can also mean 'taste', but here we are using it to mean 'personal belief'.)
Epistemology is not concerned with evidence or facts. It is concerned with how one comes to conclusions about evidence and facts.

I'm 32. I'm often told I look younger. If I told two strangers my age and one believed me based on my word and one disbelieved me based on my appearance, that would be because of an epistemological difference in how they weighed the evidence of my appearance and my word. It wouldn't change the underlying truth. Each has incomplete information and makes a judgement call, forming a belief.

How we interpret incomplete information colors everything we do. Many of our most closely held beliefs are little more than judgement calls, and are therefore beliefs attackable with epistemological arguments. Is more or less goverment better? Do guns stop crime? These are things which can be argued either way.

However, sometimes we believe things which are factually incomplete or wrong for a variety of reasons. Here there is a chance to learn better, more accurate information in order to reduce our reliance on our judgement, and reduce epistemological influence.

Most conspiracy theories are indeed predicated on false or woefully incomplete information, in my experience. The facts themselves are at issue, not one's interpretation of what those facts mean. These facts are not arguments susceptable to epistemological concerns.

Ultimately, all beliefs are not equal. The more verifiable evidence a belief incorporates, the less wiggle room there is for one's own epistemology to make a difference. And then you get science.
 

Santa's sidekick

Senior Member
I agree for the most part.. but to me the crux is the fact we coming back to the word belief. Belief is unsubstantiated... usually untested and/or unverifiable. Science isnt a belief
are we dancing in circles?
I would argue that belief in scientific conclusions are beliefs as well - perhaps a more reasonable belief than Nazi aliens (by my epistemology anyway), but a belief nonetheless.

I dont want this to turn into a pedantic back and forth going round and round and round not getting anywhere.
I'm afraid that's exactly what this is devolving into - just a re-hashing of the relativist v anti-relativist debate. I am a relativist (as you've probably guessed by now): I do not see an absolute standard of 'truth' or 'untruth'. (Which is to say: there is some objective 'truth' out there, but as there is never absolute evidence for it - even Descartes' cogito ergo sum can be challenged - all human perception of 'truth' is subject to the particular person's perception of the reasonableness of the claim and standards for evaluating evidence.)

You however seem to be an anti-relativist, which is to say, you seem to believe in universal standards by which all prepositions should be judged 'true', 'untrue', or 'unverifiable', and the people who believe in 'untrue' or 'unverifiable' claims are holding unreasonable beliefs. (By 'unverifiable', I also mean claims which do not have evidence backing them up.)

I once read in a preface to Wittgenstein's Tractatus that Bertrand Russell recalled that when Wittgenstein arrived at Cambridge as a seventeen-year-old he was immediately invited to attend Russell's lecture. Russell made a materialist statement and was immediately challenged by Wittgenstein, who said 'All materialist prepositions are meaningless'. Russell responded by saying, 'There is no hippopotamus in this room'. Wittgenstein was unsure. Russell then walked around the classroom, theatrically looking under all the desks, and asked whether Wittgenstein was convinced. He wasn't.

Let's not get into that. o_O

Edit - Just to clarify something: by 'belief', I mean 'preposition which the person in question deems to be true'. Whether the person in question has what I would see as 'good' reasons to accept the preposition (eg a sound scientific or logical basis) or what I deem to be 'poor' reasons, the mere fact that that person accepts it makes that a belief. Hence, the Earth's orbiting the sun is no different from Cousin Joe's abduction by aliens who are huge Game of Thrones fans - both are 'beliefs'.

Edited to correct misusage of a term.
 
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deirdre

Moderator
Staff member
I think the crux of our disagreement may be this: I do not believe there is a difference between 'justified belief' and 'opinion'
and this is why Metabunk has specific topics. I think you guys need to start a new thread with a specific title like "what constitutes scientific evidence?"

"The government did sneaky things in the past, so they are probably doing sneaky things now" is , imo, a justified belief.

"The government is spraying us with chemtrails. (I believe because the sky looks funny to me and government is sneaky)" is an opinion.

The first conclusion is based on SOME evidence used to come to that conclusion.
The second has (so far) zero evidence used to come to that conclusion.
 

Santa's sidekick

Senior Member
and this is why Metabunk has specific topics. I think you guys need to start a new thread with a specific title like "what constitutes scientific evidence?"
That takes the standard of 'scientific evidence' (ie conclusions reached using the scientific method) for granted. Bear in mind that the scientific method is a pretty specific method of determining facts - according to some philosophers (I just read a book on this by James A Bell, a philosopher at the University of Southern Florida, so I'll cite him) even prehistoric archeological conclusions are often not 'scientific.' (Which doesn't mean they're 'wrong' or 'unreasonable', just that the investigations didn't use the scientific method properly; and we accept those conclusions anyway.) And frankly many macroeconomic consensuses are unscientific in that sense (by which I mean that the assumptions underlying much mainstream thought rarely have their predictions directly tested, as behavioral economists love demonstrating; and when serious empirical objections are raised - eg look up the 'McCallum border puzzle' and the challenge it posed to 'gravity-based' equations of international trade - the discipline often responds by modifying or replacing equations and theories and fails to re-check them).

So perhaps a more appropriate title would be, 'What constitutes sufficient evidence to you?'

"The government did sneaky things in the past, so they are probably doing sneaky things now" is , imo, a justified belief.

"The government is spraying us with chemtrails. (I believe because the sky looks funny to me and government is sneaky)" is an opinion.

The first conclusion is based on SOME evidence used to come to that conclusion.
The second has (so far) zero evidence used to come to that conclusion.
If Alex Jones' mumbo-jumbo counts as evidence to you and academic writings don't, then the first has no evidence to support it while the second does.
 

Santa's sidekick

Senior Member
Epistemology is not concerned with evidence or facts. It is concerned with how one comes to conclusions about evidence and facts.

I'm 32. I'm often told I look younger. If I told two strangers my age and one believed me based on my word and one disbelieved me based on my appearance, that would be because of an epistemological difference in how they weighed the evidence of my appearance and my word. It wouldn't change the underlying truth. Each has incomplete information and makes a judgement call, forming a belief.

How we interpret incomplete information colors everything we do. Many of our most closely held beliefs are little more than judgement calls, and are therefore beliefs attackable with epistemological arguments. Is more or less goverment better? Do guns stop crime? These are things which can be argued either way.

However, sometimes we believe things which are factually incomplete or wrong for a variety of reasons. Here there is a chance to learn better, more accurate information in order to reduce our reliance on our judgement, and reduce epistemological influence.

Most conspiracy theories are indeed predicated on false or woefully incomplete information, in my experience. The facts themselves are at issue, not one's interpretation of what those facts mean. These facts are not arguments susceptable to epistemological concerns.

Ultimately, all beliefs are not equal. The more verifiable evidence a belief incorporates, the less wiggle room there is for one's own epistemology to make a difference. And then you get science.
Well put. If someone believes Princess Di was killed by MI5 because they admitted it in XYZ document, all you need to do is convincingly demonstrate that said document is being misinterpreted/is a forgery etc. But with conspiracies like 9/11 and NWO, there's so much material, mumbo-jumbo, and potential 'evidence' (random people saying random things) that that may not be possible.
 

deirdre

Moderator
Staff member
Bear in mind that the scientific method is a pretty specific method of determining facts - according to some philosophers
wll i'm glad 'some philosophers' agree.

Either way, based on your philosophy- anything i say is just as true as anything you say. so why are you arguing with me?
 

Santa's sidekick

Senior Member
wll i'm glad 'some philosophers' agree.

Either way, based on your philosophy- anything i say is just as true as anything you say. so why are you arguing with me?
Certainly - as a relativist, your belief in anti-relativism is as valid as mine.

My point about prehistoric archeology was concerned with the narrowness of the scientific method and our belief in things that don't necessarily utilize it - Bell doesn't doubt the picture of prehistory archeology provides, he simply challenges the claim that the scientific method is being used and proposes what archeologists can do differently to conform to it. But this itself demonstrates the sorry state of debates in philosophy - philosophers can't even agree on precisely what the scientific method is!
 

deirdre

Moderator
Staff member
Certainly - as a relativist, your belief in anti-relativism is as valid as mine.
thats a pretty big assumption you are making there about me. but i was talking about my specifc example. if you are going to keep changing the focus of the conversation then there is no point to having a conversation at all. you guys have fun.
 

Santa's sidekick

Senior Member
thats a pretty big assumption you are making there about me. but i was talking about my specifc example. if you are going to keep changing the focus of the conversation then there is no point to having a conversation at all. you guys have fun.
I'm sorry, I must have misunderstood you. What specific example were you referring to?

('Assumption' - do you mean my assumption that you are an anti-relativist? If you are not, I apologize.)

(Also, I don't think I was changing the focus of the conversation - I was just trying to get to the bottom of the disagreement.)
 

Santa's sidekick

Senior Member
Only if "druggy dj without a single college credit" is the new "nerd" then yes, your description of Limbaugh is apt. :oops:
I'm neither right-wing nor American, nor a Rush Limbaugh fan - but I have friends who are all three, and are surprisingly intelligent and reasonable (says the guy who's posting at 3.45!) and are attending an excellent university. (Schools don't do a great job with encouraging critical thinking in my experience... but that's for a different thread.)
 

Santa's sidekick

Senior Member
thats a pretty big assumption you are making there about me. but i was talking about my specifc example. if you are going to keep changing the focus of the conversation then there is no point to having a conversation at all. you guys have fun.
I think I see what you mean about changing the focus of the conversation - my second paragraph was intended to elaborate on your joke about 'some philosophers agree on something'.
 

NoParty

Senior Member
I'm neither right-wing nor American, nor a Rush Limbaugh fan - but I have friends who are all three, and are surprisingly intelligent and reasonable (says the guy who's posting at 3.45!) and are attending an excellent university. (Schools don't do a great job with encouraging critical thinking in my experience... but that's for a different thread.)
Well, I didn't say anything about his listeners...I presume that they run the gamut from very dim & racist
to very intelligent...like the audience for virtually any kind of entertainment.

My point was that "nerd" would be a novel new use of the word for a "druggy dj without a single college credit."
In the U.S. "nerd" usually has implications of education that I think even Limbaugh would be uncomfortable with... :p



p.s. Having taught logic & general critical thinking in the U.S., I feel qualified to opine that "a great job"
is done on it...in many cases. :D Of course, that I am on this site, implies that I would always argue for more. :cool:
And it was all this Philosophy major could do, to not jump into the "defining epistemology" episode above...
but I choose my battles more carefully in my old age. :) And it's only midnight here on the Left Coast... o_O
 

Santa's sidekick

Senior Member
Well, I didn't say anything about his listeners...I presume that they run the gamut from very dim & racist
to very intelligent...like the audience for virtually any kind of entertainment.

My point was that "nerd" would be a novel new use of the word for a "druggy dj without a single college credit."
In the U.S. "nerd" usually has implications of education that I think even Limbaugh would be uncomfortable with... :p



p.s. Having taught logic & general critical thinking in the U.S., I feel qualified to opine that "a great job"
is done on it...in many cases. :D Of course, that I am on this site, implies that I would always argue for more. :cool:
And it was all this Philosophy major could do, to not jump into the "defining epistemology" episode above...
but I choose my battles more carefully in my old age. :) And it's only midnight here on the Left Coast... o_O
OK, I was unaware 'nerd' had that connotation. I meant people who are passionate about right-wing politics and was drawing a comparison to people who are passionate about CTs.

I'm in the North East, and it's 4.06 here (3.45 when I posted my last post).
 

Santa's sidekick

Senior Member
it was all this Philosophy major could do, to not jump into the "defining epistemology" episode above...
but I choose my battles more carefully in my old age. :) And it's only midnight here on the Left Coast... o_O
Would love to hear your opinion though!

'My old age' - you don't look a day over thirty (judging by your profile picture:D).

Edited to correct a misspelling
 
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Santa's sidekick

Senior Member
anything i say is just as true as anything you say. so why are you arguing with me?
I'm having some difficulty understanding this. If what you mean is 'what is the point of ever arguing about anything?' then here's my response:

a. As Spectrar Ghost pointed out, many (most?) disagreements are caused by ignorance about facts, not different epistemologies - ie, if Cousin Joe says, 'Stephen Hawking wrote this article about how he was invited to join the Illuminati', I can demonstrate that Stephen Hawking never wrote that. Most of the debunking on Snopes is of this sort.

b. The parties can clear up the basic facts, find what they agree on, and, as Mick pointed out, understand the difference between their epistemologies.

c. Philosophical relativism is an abstract idea - in the real world, I will argue with people who hold beliefs that I see as irrational/wrong. If someone shoves me on the street and justifies it by saying, 'I'm sorry, but I believe you're an evil ogre', I certainly will not curtsy and say, 'Your belief that I am an ogre is as valid as my belief that I am not, and therefore you were entirely justified in shoving me. Please feel free to do so again'.

One thing to remember is that there certainly is an objective truth out there - we just can never get absolute proof of what that is. There is or is no God; LBJ did or did not orchestrate the Kennedy assassination; and we can all agree that, as the Air Force general in Dr Strangelove discovered, commies are draining our precious bodily fluids :rolleyes:. But the evidence is never absolutely indisputable, and therefore we can never 'know' (in the Descartian sense) what the objective facts are. That's where epistemology comes in: it determines at what level of 'evidence' we say 'X is "true" ', how we weigh conflicting evidence, and how we determine what constitutes 'evidence' in the first place.
 
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deirdre

Moderator
Staff member
But the evidence is never absolutely indisputable, and therefore we can never 'know'
i know that you are just dancing in circles, and the evidence is absolutely indisputable. (I'm a relativist i've decided), so that makes it so. that makes it Truth. that makes it real.

and before you disagree, your counter argument to this is irrelevant.
 

Pete Tar

Senior Member
No worries, just a pet peeve.
To be fair, it is often used in the abstract all-encompassing meaning, but it's good to get back to the root meaning of it when debating 'science vs belief'.
 

NoParty

Senior Member
...I would argue that science is a verb describing a particular behaviour or actions, which may result in things to believe.
"Mom's here, jogging on the treadmill; Dad is watching the Browns lose, & Pete is sciencing in the basement." :p



The word "know" is worthless...so long as people demand that it only be used for times
in which we can be positive our senses aren't deceiving us...which is to say: Never in the real world.

And please, people, throw out Descartes' Cogito...absolute petitio principii rubbish!

For those who want to "know" something not dependent on sensory info,
there's always good ol' Aristotle and basic syllogisms:

p1: If it is the case that Mick is taller than Pete
p2: And if it is the case that Pete is taller than Santa's sidekick
C: Then it must also be the case that Mick is taller than Santa's sidekick



[I now realize that the "know" stuff mostly relates to Santa's posts...but I'm tired...
and a bit cheesed-off: I didn't get a damned thing accomplished this morning between 2 & 3]
 

vitorino

Member
it's basically the people that use the scientific method vs those who don't.. The CTs skipped those classes (or at least were a bit distracted) and the debunkers didn't. All the misconceptions listed can be traced back to this fundamental principle
 

vitorino

Member
Hi Svartbjørn, thanks for responding (and cool name, btw).
For example, Noam Chomsky and Alan Dershowitz approach the Israel-Palestine controversy with essentially the same set of sources, but based on those sources arrive at a somewhat different understanding of the historical facts and a radically different understanding of contemporary realities. So if, for example, Chomsky were to tell Dershowitz 'You must take into account XYZ source' or 'XYZ logical argument,' he would not be gaining any ground, as Dershowitz's evaluation and weighting of that source or syllogism may be very different. (Chomsky and Dershowitz have in fact debated this topic, and this essentially describes most of what happened.)
Sorry to call you out on this, Santa's, but I think you're factually wrong, saying Chomsky and Dershowitz use "the same sources". Dershowitz is a known fact-falsifier, having based one of his books on the issue on a famous fraud (Joan Peters book). Any self-respecting "debunker" will revere Norman Finkelstein classic rebutal (debunking) of Dershowitz "work":


We all should watch this regularly to see what debunking means.
 

Santa's sidekick

Senior Member
it's basically the people that use the scientific method vs those who don't.. The CTs skipped those classes (or at least were a bit distracted) and the debunkers didn't. All the misconceptions listed can be traced back to this fundamental principle
Frankly I think most debunkers don't properly understand the scientific method either. The terms 'science' and 'scientific method' are widely misapplied, overused, and misunderstood even among academics. (See http://www.math.chalmers.se/~ulfp/Review/logicscdis.pdf for a great summary of the various stances of philosophers of science, focusing on Karl Popper's ideas and their reception; the commonality however is that all see the scientific method as being much more limited and specific than it is generally understood to be.) My point ultimately is that while debunking utilises logic, epistemic tools, and facts (which are occasionally scientific facts), the scientific method itself is generally not useable.

That said, in my (biased) experience I've found debunkers average fewer fallacies-per-hour than CTs, so I agree that debunkers tend to be more logical thinkers than CTs.
 
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