When Conspiracists Psychoanalyze

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LilWabbit

Senior Member
It also works in a sentence such as "so and so won the popular vote but lost the election", which seems to be about the most common use of the term, while Mendel's meaning doesn't (even if, as you say, he's technically correct).

Mendel's meaning of "popular vote" is the same as yours. But he's merely providing the additional snippet of information that even the American system is indirectly based on a popular vote. What you're saying is the same in reverse order -- i.e. the well-known fact that in the American system "winning the popular vote" does not directly determine the final outcome. But you guys are all nonetheless using basically the same meaning of the term "popular vote".

Word salad galore!
 

LilWabbit

Senior Member
I looked up all those dictionaries and you're ignoring it

there are TWO meanings (or three), not one

But if you read carefully the article referenced in your own citation and think it through, you'll realize it's actually one and the same meaning but in two different contexts. Namely: Popular vote is a vote by the entire electorate. But different systems employ a different 'algorithm' for the manner in which that popular vote translates into the final outcome.
 

LilWabbit

Senior Member
Is it? I'm reading his as "a vote by the population" or "populace vote".

How is that different from yours? When you say "Hillary won the popular vote" it's the same meaning. The fact that the US electoral system doesn't use an algorithm where that popular vote accurately translates into the final outcome does not render the meaning of your usage of "popular vote" different from Mendel's.

Btw, now we're firmly back in the left-brainer nitpicking territory. Which is obviously fun! :p
 

econ41

Senior Member
@Mendel is saying every real democracy across the world is based on a "popular vote" -- even under systems where these votes are not accurately reflected in the final result......... A ..... vote still occurred and was required by the system for the final result, however disproportionate. The US is a case in point. He's right.
Yes. democracy where elected persons represent a group of people. The "global set" meaning. "Fruit" is a global class.
....and @econ41 are saying that "popular vote" denotes all the single votes cast by the entire electorate. You're also right, and what you're saying does not contradict with what Mendel is saying.
Correct. True globally andalso true for the specific situation when "popular vote" is referring to the US Presidential election. A specific sub-set. "Apple" is a subset of fruit.
In addition, you seem to be saying that "proportional" means, amongst other things, that the electoral votes assigned to each state in the US presidential elections are roughly proportional to the population of those states. Which is also a perfectly legitimate use of the word "proportional".

In other words, some confusion arose from the different usage of the term "proportional" where Mendel seemed to employ it to mean accurate proportionality whilst you're saying it can still be a proportional system without being accurate. You're both right as long as we understand what you both mean by the same term.
Exactly. Some references are to the full set - the "global" meaning. Others refer to specific applications. Sub-sets.
In sum, much ado about nothing. We're great at it at MB. ;)
I think it may have been said previously ;)
- when terms have more than one possible meaning and can cause ambiguity-based confusion. Simply say EITHER which one you mean OR be certain and define it each time.
 

Woolery

Banned
Banned
Sorry to interrupt the political discussion but in regards to the OP:

As a skeptic, I often have an experience that many people will find familiar. I'm talking to someone. They tell me something I know to be wrong. I explain why they are wrong. They refuse to believe me. I continue to try, sometimes over days or weeks. They still won't get it, and sometimes their false belief becomes even stronger. What is wrong with them?
As is suggested to some extent in the A Symmetry of Perception section of the original post, this experience of a “skeptic” unable to reach a “believer” is in every way identical to what a climate change skeptic, or a vaccine skeptic, or a 2020 election skeptic experiences when he or she tries to convince someone of their perspective. I think this might have as much to do with skepticism as belief.

It seems we’ve all tried to avoid defining skepticism but the notion is quickly losing any coherent meaning to me among these posts. So here’s Merriam-Webster’s definition. It’s the very first that sprang up, and I believe the power of a word can be found largely in how it’s commonly used. From that perspective I think it’s important to understand:

skepticism​

noun

skep·ti·cism ˈskep-tə-ˌsi-zəm

1
: an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object
2
a
: the doctrine that true knowledge or knowledge in a particular area is uncertain
b
: the method of suspended judgment, systematic doubt, or criticism characteristic of skeptics
3
: doubt concerning basic religious principles
Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/skepticism

Doubt seems to be the running theme. And the idea of right or wrong appears to have nothing to do with it. A shared notion of facts seems to be somewhat at odds with definition 2a since true knowledge is uncertain. But like most people, I’m partial to facts.

Considering skepticism’s definition, why is climate change skepticism not an example of skepticism? Why is vaccine skepticism not an example of skepticism? Why is 2020 election skepticism not an example of skepticism? It’s been said here that a lack of skepticism is what led to these apparently misguided theories. Obviously, these self-avowed skeptics would disagree.

Im unhappy to report that I see these examples as fairly in line with skepticism’s common definition. Common to all these CTs is doubt and what appears to be an earnest attempt to employ skeptical principles.

I think an argument can be made that the application of skepticism (whether you believe it’s being misapplied or not) is at the heart of what is tearing the world apart in the 21st century. Doubt upon doubt upon doubt. The uncertainty of knowledge.

I’m no expert but universal doubt breeds mutual suspicion and makes a flimsy foundation for trust and understanding, the deficit of which appears to be overwhelming us at the moment.
 
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Rory

Senior Member.
Considering skepticism’s definition, why is climate change skepticism not an example of skepticism? Why is vaccine skepticism not an example of skepticism? Why is 2020 election skepticism not an example of skepticism?

I would say they are examples of skepticism.

It’s been said here that a lack of skepticism is what led to these apparently misguided theories.

I don't remember that happening but I'll take your word for it that it did.

Perhaps they meant "lack of well-functioning critical thinking" or "correctly applied skepticism" (eg, skepticism backed up by an ability to tell what is factual from what isn't)?

I think an argument can be made that the application of skepticism (whether you believe it’s being misapplied or not) is at the heart of what is tearing the world apart in the 21st century.

My personal belief is that the world isn't being torn apart - at least, no more than usual, and actually less so - and that things are, on the whole, getting better.

I’m no expert but universal doubt breeds suspicion and makes a flimsy foundation for trust and understanding, the deficit of which appears to be overwhelming us at the moment.

I hesitate at large generalisations such as "a deficit of trust and understanding appears to be overwhelming us at the moment" but it sounds like you're a lot more in the world than I am so perhaps you're right.

Still, I do wonder who the "us" is you're referring to - I read it as "everyone on the planet" - but perhaps that's not what you meant.

But, anyway, perhaps you'll be happy to hear that neither myself nor the people I meet in real life are feeling overwhelmed by this issue. And I'm sorry if you and the people you meet in real life are feeling overwhelmed by current circumstances.

PS @econ41 - I added a few modifications to the post where I argued the Electoral College system isn't really that different, in practice and outcome, to the UK system. I think I was 50/50 about it in the beginning, then swayed more towards the differences after your comments, but now I'm firmly in the "they're not so different after all" camp - to the extent that if the "2020 Election" forum ever gets re-named "Politics in General" I'll happily post a claim along those lines and watch how y'all debunk it. But here's a head's up and an invitation to correct me if I'm off track (I currently think the biggest argument against my position is the disproportionate importance of 'swing states' but I think I can see a way to navigate that).
 
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deirdre

Senior Member.
Still, I do wonder who the "us" is you're referring to - I read it as "everyone on the planet"
us, the same way debunkers often use it. holistically humanity. not every single individual person.

nor the people I meet in real life are feeling overwhelmed by this
are you still living on that yoga commune? you are taking his words too literally. read the newpapers and you'll get a better understanding of what he means.

It’s been said here that a lack of skepticism is what led to these apparently misguided theories.
it's a russian doll type thing. yes, youre skeptical about climate change, but then you are supposed to be skeptical about your skepticism of climate change, and once you do that you need to be skeptical of your skepticism of your skepticism of climate change.

:)
 

Rory

Senior Member.
are you still living on that yoga commune?

Yep, still there - though it's not a commune, it's a teacher training facility and retreat center.

you are taking his words too literally

That's possible: it certainly happens on occasion.

read the newpapers and you'll get a better understanding of what he means.

Call me a skeptic but I don't trust newspapers (or TV news) to accurately reflect reality (my lived experience seems to support this as the correct philosophy to live by).

it's a russian doll type thing. yes, youre skeptical about climate change, but then you are supposed to be skeptical about your skepticism of climate change, and once you do that you need to be skeptical of your skepticism of your skepticism of climate change.

Nice. And then eventually you reach the middle and find a little Swiss chocolate. :)
 
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Ann K

Senior Member.
Considering skepticism’s definition, why is climate change skepticism not an example of skepticism? Why is vaccine skepticism not an example of skepticism? Why is 2020 election skepticism not an example of skepticism? It’s been said here that a lack of skepticism is what led to these apparently misguided theories. Obviously, these self-avowed skeptics would disagree.
I think those are best described as denialism rather than skepticism, because they generally seem not to be accompanied by a desire to investigate the facts that are known, or they "research" the subject by watching YouTube videos that present opinions rather than facts. It's understandable in some respects, because a certain amount of scientific education is needed for things like climate change or (another sticking point for many people) genetics and evolution. Those without the ability to understand the evidence are easily misled - and the same occurs for people who are disinclined to understand the evidence. Ignorance and stubbornness are indistinguishable in many cases.

I consider true skepticism to be followed by multi-source investigations. We ask "Is it true?", but then we base our answer to that on a solid understanding of the relevant facts, and if we don't know, we say so.

All three of the examples you give are, rather obviously from the relevant statistics, subject to political bias. In the USA conservative positions are the driving force for "beliefs" that are handed down to people who have no background upon which to decide whether to believe them or not. It's been said, and I believe it, that "Facts have a liberal bias".
 
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deirdre

Senior Member.
Call me a skeptic but I don't trust newspapers (or TV news) to accurately reflect reality (my lived experience seems to support this as the correct philosophy to live by).

agree. fear mongering for click bait is a huge problem. but it does bleed into reality, like many people not getting vaccines because they dont trust the institutions now (health or government spokespersons).

Granted there has always been vaccine hesitancy, and i get letting others go first as Guinea pigs but it seems (could be a new thread) to me that resistance is higher than past decades would have been. and our booster shot numbers are abysmal.
 

econ41

Senior Member
PS @econ41 - I added a few modifications to the post where I argued the Electoral College system isn't really that different, in practice and outcome, to the UK system. I think I was 50/50 about it in the beginning, then swayed more towards the differences after your comments, but now I'm firmly in the "they're not so different after all" camp - to the extent that if the "2020 Election" forum ever gets re-named "Politics in General" I'll happily post a claim along those lines and watch how y'all debunk it. But here's a head's up and an invitation to correct me if I'm off track (I currently think the biggest argument against my position is the disproportionate importance of 'swing states' but I think I can see a way to navigate that).
I won't even attempt to "correct" you. There is more than enough conflating confusion in this thread. Our goals are directly opposed. I'll explain it in metaphor. (And risk confusing a few more people. ;)

This is an apple: Clip800.png This is a bananaclip801.png

They are both "fruit". The apple is round, red and tastes sweet. The banana is elongated, bent, yellow and tastes sweet.

They are still both "fruit". But the apple is not bent. And the banana is not round. The apple is not a banana even though it tastes sweet like the banana. The banana is not an apple even tho it tastes sweet.

I assume (correctly I hope) that we can all agree (1) that bananas are not apples; (2) that apples are not bananas and (3) that both ARE fruit. (Sub-sets of a set for those who use that concept. We could draw a Venn Diagram etc etc...)

You are looking for commonality - trying to see how the US and UK systems are similar. And ignoring the differences.

But the debate here is about differences. Not commonalities. How the US Electoral College Voting system is different. And specifically how the electoral college outcomes differ from the popular vote as counted in the same US system.

So, as I said, "Our goals are directly opposed". You are looking for commonalities - "we" are debating the differences.

(Note: I'm aware that USA is neither "fruit" nor an apple despite the self-image of one US city. ;) Like this circling discussion - "it never dies"**? )

** Sinatra, F 1979.
 
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Woolery

Banned
Banned
I think those are best described as denialism rather than skepticism, because they generally seem not to be accompanied by a desire to investigate the facts that are known, or they "research" the subject by watching YouTube videos that present opinions rather than facts. It's understandable in some respects, because a certain amount of scientific education is needed for things like climate change or (another sticking point for many people) genetics and evolution. Those without the ability to understand the evidence are easily misled - and the same occurs for people who are disinclined to understand the evidence. Ignorance and stubbornness are indistinguishable in many cases.

I consider true skepticism to be followed by multi-source investigations. We ask "Is it true?", but then we base our answer to that on a solid understanding of the relevant facts, and if we don't know, we say so.

IAll three of the examples you give are, rather obviously from the relevant statistics, subject to political bias. In the USA conservative positions are the driving force for "beliefs" that are handed down to people who have no background upon which to decide whether to believe them or not. It's been said, and I believe it, that "Facts have a liberal bias".
Okay. I’m not familiar with “true” skepticism. That sounds pretty advanced. I’ll stick to skepticism and it’s common definition for now. When someone puts “true” in front of a word (like a true patriot, a true believer, a true conservative, a true liberal) it often seems to indicate an urge to redefine what it means to be that thing. That kind of stuff makes me nervous.
 
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Ann K

Senior Member.
When someone puts “true” in front of a word (like a true patriot, a true believer, a true conservative, a true liberal) it often seems to indicate an urge to redefine what it means to be that thing.
OK, you're right, I should have worded that differently. My point was that I consider skepticism to be much more than saying "I don't believe that", and when someone holds firmly to a contrary position but fails (or refuses) to look at any of the pertinent facts of the situation, I don't think one can call that skepticism. That kind of stuff makes ME nervous.
 

Woolery

Banned
Banned
My point was that I consider skepticism to be much more than saying "I don't believe that", and when someone holds firmly to a contrary position but fails (or refuses) to look at any of the pertinent facts of the situation, I don't think one can call that skepticism. That kind of stuff makes ME nervous.
That’s interesting. What you see as a failure or refusal to recognize facts from a contrary position (I assume contrary to yours), I see as someone’s attempt at adhering to the doctrine that true knowledge is uncertain and to employ systematic doubt. I try to take notions of someone’s bad intent or their lack of aptitude out of it since I can’t know those things and I’m a victim of my own biases. I think most conspiracy theorists are just trying as hard as they can to do what’s right.

I try to imagine what it would be like for me if I looked up skepticism in the dictionary and then rigorously applied it as it’s defined. It would be disastrous.

Skepticism and facts have a fraught relationship.
 

Ann K

Senior Member.
What you see as a failure or refusal to recognize facts from a contrary position (I assume contrary to yours), I see as someone’s attempt at adhering to the doctrine that true knowledge is uncertain and to employ systematic doubt.
"Adhering to a doctrine" is itself renouncing skepticism, isn't it? If a person says "I don't know about that, I'm not sure", that's what I think you'd call systematic doubt and I'd call skepticism. But if a person says, for example, "Global warming isn't happening", that's embracing a position without necessarily having any supporting facts, hence it's denialism rather than skepticism. If a person says he doesn't believe one thing, that doesn't make the opposite position any more true, since very few things are strictly yes-no binary.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
I won't even attempt to "correct" you. There is more than enough conflating confusion in this thread. Our goals are directly opposed. I'll explain it in metaphor.

Yep, that works for me, and enables me to see more clearly where we're both coming from. Very well conceived, explained, and articulated.

Can I suggest an amendment?

You are looking for commonality - trying to see how the US and UK systems are similar.

But the debate here is about differences.

So, as I said, "Our goals are directly opposed".

I may have forgotten where the conversation ("debate") started but I thought I started this particular strand ("the Electoral College isn't as different as some people think") and that it wasn't so much a "debate" (conversation) as me just saying stuff. But correct me if I'm wrong (and also I'll go have a look myself).

Anyway, you know where you're coming from and that's in pointing out the differences in the apple and banana.

But where I'm coming from is not primarily in pointing out the commonalities, it's in addressing those people (they're probably out there somewhere) who thought the apple was actually a mouldy onion and the banana was a shiny new teapot.

Sure, in order to do that I have to dig out the commonalities, but - well, I think it's clear enough to a man of your wiles and smarts. :)

(PS I'm not ignoring the differences - I've actually pointed out quite a few of them. And, yes, I am biased towards my viewpoint. ;) )

I try to imagine what it would be like for me if I looked up skepticism in the dictionary and then rigorously applied it as it’s defined. It would be disastrous.

Just checked the OED definitions and they're basically what Woolery said and there's not really any mention of Ann's idea of a "true skeptic" - which I found surprising - so I guess we need to start calling ourselves something else, since arriving at true and factual conclusions is, I assume, one of our primary goals here at metabunk.
 

Woolery

Banned
Banned
"Adhering to a doctrine" is itself renouncing skepticism, isn't it?
I guess. But since the doctrine you refer to is skepticism itself (a doctrine of systematic doubt by definition), what you’re saying is that in order to adhere to skepticism you need to renounce skepticism. That sounds like BS to my uneducated ears.

Edit: I turned bullshit into BS. But skepticism defines itself as a doctrine. That’s why I don’t adhere to a doctrine that rejects doctrines.
 
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Rory

Senior Member.
But since the doctrine you refer to is skepticism itself

I think the solution is that we find a word other than skepticism as, you're right, the dictionary definition refers to a [school of] philosophy that "doubts the possibility of real knowledge of any kind" - and I don't think that's what metabunk is about.
 

Woolery

Banned
Banned
I think the solution is that we find a word other than skepticism as, you're right, the dictionary definition refers to a [school of] philosophy that "doubts the possibility of real knowledge of any kind" - and I don't think that's what metabunk is about.
How I see people use skepticism is to find flaws in what other (contrary) people hold true. I see that here as much as on a CT site. This site is far more skilled at it.

What I see neither here nor on a CT site is using skepticism primarily to find flaws in what they themselves hold true. This must be how skepticism was primarily intended: self examination. Now that would be the metabunk for me—the one that focused on questioning yourself. Why I’m wrong to be a conservative. Why I’m wrong to be a liberal. Why I’m wrong to be a Christian. Why I’m wrong to be an atheist. Why I might not be as smart as I think. Why I might not be as open-minded as I think. Start and finish with skepticism of myself. If Marcus Aurelius was still around, he might be my site’s administrator.
 
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Rory

Senior Member.
Deirdre hits the nail on the head ^^^ but if you want the boring version that I already typed out...

How I see people use skepticism is to find flaws in what other (contrary) people hold true. I see that here as much as on a CT site.

In my experience metabunk is primarily a debunking site used to explain mistaken beliefs about generally objective (and fringe, and geeky) subjects such as chemtrails, 9/11, flat earth, UFOs, and various other conspiracy theories involving misinformation, disinformation, false scientific claims, and things that can be measured and proven beyond reasonable doubt.

Typing that it really dawns on me that we've become far too hung up on this word "skeptic". Michael Shermer and Brian Dunning might describe themselves as skeptics, and Mick certainly has associations with them, but though there are crossovers between what they look at and what we look at it's really about the debunking here and less about the skepticism. And if metabunk is skeptical it's only skeptical in the sense that extraordinary claims are greeted with instant disbelief and immediately sought to be explained in mundane terms.

What it isn't is: skeptical about everything; a hub for philosophy; as hardline as Shermer, Dunning, Dawkins, etc; much at all interested in religion or spirituality; nor very tolerant of speculation and musing and going down tangents of things that are unprovable (at least not in the proper threads).

Probably it would really help to move more towards the word "debunking" - ie, explaining mistakes and misunderstandings in fairly mundane physical things and seeking to arrive at the truth of what's really going on with balloons and birds and falling down buildings and vapour trails - and to move away from the words "skeptic" and "skepticism" and the hifalutin and mostly abstract thought exercises that the literal meanings of those words point to.

What I see neither here nor on a CT site is using skepticism primarily to find flaws in what they themselves hold true. This must be how skepticism was primarily intended: self examination. Now that would be the metabunk for me—the one that focused on questioning yourself. Why I’m wrong to be a conservative. Why I’m wrong to be a liberal. Why I’m wrong to be a Christian. Why I’m wrong to be an atheist. Why I might not be as smart as I think. Why I might not be as open-minded as I think.

Also in my experience, people here generally shy away from the more human aspects of things. I don't think they're too interested in looking at themselves or in seriously investigating the human soul and mind and individual psychology and peeling away the layers of their personalities to arrive at the truth of their being and the truth of what life on planet Earth is actually about. At least on the forum, in public - who knows what they are doing or have done in their lives away from here? - and certainly there are a few members who are into that - but it's not what metabunk is about, it's more of an extremely smart geeky boys club than an encounter group or philosophy circle and if you start a post attempting to explore something genuinely human it'll probably dissolve into awkward jokes and fizzle out pretty quickly - whereas you can have a hundred posts about distant blurs in photographs and people'll commit days and weeks to trying to figure them out.

All of that is okay, of course: it takes all kinds to make a world and there's room for a bit of everything. If you want to sing hymns and pray you go to church and if you want to race go-karts you go to the track; but you don't take your hymn sheet to the go-kart arena and try and get everyone else to start singing and you don't take your crash helmet to the pews (if you catch my drift).

Anyways, if you want to give exploring some issues a try then go for it. Start a thread with a claim and see what happens. How about trying "Claim: I'm of average intelligence" in general discussion or chit chat or open discussion or people debunked and maybe the members'll have a go at that? I do notice you keep saying it and haven't addressed all the myriad times you've been told you're not. It seems almost like a habitual response or a comfort blanket - unless you don't really believe it and are just saying it for the lolz.

Finally, here's a thread that is about real life and stuff (maybe others can link to other such threads) that I started and found quite interesting. Maybe you will too?

https://www.metabunk.org/threads/conversations-with-materialists.12002/

And if you really want to investigate your own beliefs and get to the bottom of things start a thread in chitchat and I'll happily do my best to assist (probably best one belief at a time and stay on topic).
 
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deirdre

Senior Member.
"Claim: I'm of average intelligence" in general discussion or chit chat or open discussion or people debunked and maybe people'll have a go at that: I do notice you keep saying and haven't addressed all the myriad people who have told you you're not. It seems almost like a habitual response or a comfort blanket - unless you don't really believe it and are just saying it for the lolz.
why don't YOU start a thread with the same claim? Why dont we all scrutinize and analyze your perception of yourself as "not all that smart".

But I'm really not all that smart; embarrassing really how unsmart I am.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
why don't YOU start a thread with the same claim?

Because I didn't write what Woolery wrote about what he hoped for from metabunk.

Why dont we all scrutinize and analyze your perception of yourself as "not all that smart"?

By "not all that smart" I really mean "when I look back it seems that quite a few of the things I did and said and thought were pretty dumb, even though it didn't seem so at the time" - and "looking back" can mean years or months or even seconds.

Ain't nobody here gonna talk me out of that. :D
 

Woolery

Banned
Banned
In my experience metabunk is primarily a debunking site used to explain mistaken beliefs about generally objective (and fringe, and geeky) subjects such as chemtrails, 9/11, flat earth, UFOs, and various other conspiracy theories involving misinformation, disinformation, false scientific claims, and things that can be measured and proven beyond reasonable doubt.

Typing that it really dawns on me that we've become far too hung up on this word "skeptic". Michael Shermer and Brian Dunning might describe themselves as skeptics, and Mick certainly has associations with them, but though there are crossovers between what they look at and what we look at it's really about the debunking here and less about the skepticism. And if metabunk is skeptical it's only skeptical in the sense that extraordinary claims are greeted with instant disbelief and sought to be immediately explained in mundane terms.
Okay. I questioned skepticism since the OP begins this post with “As a skeptic...” I thought it was more relevant than arguing politics and worth discussing what the OP meant by being a skeptic because I don’t know.

Anyways, if you want to give exploring some issues a try then go for it. Start a thread with a claim and see what happens. I would recommend "Claim: I'm of average intelligence" in general discussion or chit chat or open discussion or people debunked and maybe people'll have a go at that: I do notice you keep saying and haven't addressed all the myriad people who have told you you're not. It seems almost like a habitual response or a comfort blanket - unless you don't really believe it and are just saying it for the lolz.
It must be a comfort blanket. I probably do it to deflect criticism and getaway with layman terminology. It’s a dumb thing to do. I’ve been reading about cognition. I didn’t reply because I didn’t want to disagree with people being kind.

And if you really want to investigate your own beliefs and get to the bottom of things start a thread in chitchat and I'll happily do my best to assist.
I don’t think metabunk is the place for that.
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
Okay. I questioned skepticism since the OP begins this post with “As a skeptic...” I thought it was more relevant than arguing politics and worth discussing what the OP meant by being a skeptic because I don’t know.
@Mick West has been pretty much AWOL (ie he's busy with private stuff) and only he can really answer that question, i think.

He did specifically write this OP article for "Skeptic" magazine, a year earlier. (not to suggest he doesnt call himself a skeptic normally)

I can tell you he has often, in the past, said that we don't debunk conspiracy theories, we debunk specific claims of evidence. For ex, he doesn't debunk chemtrails the theory, he just looks at all the evidence provided for the claim of chemtrails and sees if each particular piece of evidence holds up.


The rest of us are really just agreeing with you ( i think) in regards to general skepticism on MB, until he gets around to your post.

and it is definitely more on topic than politics.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
I think the solution is that we find a word other than skepticism as, you're right, the dictionary definition refers to a [school of] philosophy that "doubts the possibility of real knowledge of any kind" - and I don't think that's what metabunk is about.
the word is fine

from the Skeptical Inquirer:
Article:

What is Skepticism?​


The word “skepticism” comes from the ancient Greek skepsis, meaning “inquiry.” Skepticism is, therefore, not a cynical rejection of new ideas, as the popular stereotype goes, but rather an attitude of both open mind and critical sense.

The ancient skeptics simply doubted that human beings can achieve certain knowledge, and preferred to be agnostic about a number of notions which they felt we just did not grasp securely.

That philosophical tradition eventually informed the beginnings of science in the 17th and 18th centuries, and it is best captured by David Hume’s advice that wise persons proportion their beliefs to the evidence. Or, as Carl Sagan put it much later, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

The modern skeptical movement is a grassroots phenomenon that aims at helping the public navigate the complex borderlands between sense and nonsense, science and pseudoscience.
Skepticism does so by way of investigation of alleged extraordinary phenomena, mindful cultivation of critical thinking, and an honest attitude toward intellectual inquiry.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
but it's not what metabunk is about, it's more of an extremely smart geeky boys club than an encounter group or philosophy circle and if you start a post attempting to explore something genuinely human it'll probably dissolve into awkward jokes and fizzle out pretty quickly - whereas you can have a hundred posts about distant blurs in photographs and people'll commit days and weeks to trying to figure them out.
my perception is that your notion of "genuinely human" and Metabunk's main subject of "claims of evidence" have only a small area of intersection

so you're looking for the "hymn book at skating rink" thing, even though the skaters may be avid church-goers

(p.s. if anyone knows why @Woolery is banned, please PM me)
(p.p.s. because he requested it, per https://www.metabunk.org/threads/attitudes-towards-intelligence.12686/post-281127 )
 
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FatPhil

Senior Member.
A country does not fail to be a democracy if its election system is not proportional.
Yup (and agree with the rest of your post), but the QoI issue is what's more important in the real world. A buggy program that always crashes no matter what inputs it is given is technically still a program, it it's not fit for purpose. If it's claiming to be a spreadsheet program, is it a spreadsheet program if you can't open a spreadsheet? If it's claiming to be a game, is it a game if you can't move? Democracies can also be very buggy, and the most buggy I don't consider to be functioning democracies.

I first considered this issue whilst I was studying numerical analysis in the context of floating point computations, and I thus viewed the issues I saw with democratic systems in terms of rounding errors. Some democratic systems have potential rounding errors bigger than the numbers being dealt with, and you can ending up with more noise than signal. Bizarrely, after viewing it that way, I realised that I'd worked out exactly the same thing in a different context when I was about 5 years old.
 

LilWabbit

Senior Member
I first considered this issue whilst I was studying numerical analysis in the context of floating point computations, and I thus viewed the issues I saw with democratic systems in terms of rounding errors. Some democratic systems have potential rounding errors bigger than the numbers being dealt with, and you can ending up with more noise than signal.

"Rounding error" is an excellent way of encapsulating the chief critique of the US system of electing the president through an electoral college under the winner-takes-all parameter and under a two-party system where the popular vote is almost invariably split near the middle.

However, (a) if the electorate is better than the electoral college at selecting local/regional representatives, and (b) if the electoral college is better than the electorate at selecting a president/policies, (c) then the election outcome not reflecting the popular vote isn't an "error" under the internal logic of such a form of representative democracy.

In my personal opinion, a is true but b is not true under the electoral college system but could be true in an optimal system of representative democracy.

Here's an interesting philosophical analysis comparing direct versus representative democracy:

Article:
Abstract

On the face of it, direct democracy should outperform representative democracy based on the number of voters. If, however, the electorate is better at selecting representatives than policies (the Selection Effect) or if the deliberation feasible among representatives leads to epistemic gains (the Deliberation Effect), then representative democracy may be preferable. Another factor is whether representatives act as delegates or trustees. If the former, the epistemic loss from bunching voters into constituencies is minimal. If the latter, the much smaller number of voters may be compensated for by the ability to deliberate among trustees. A mix of delegates and trustees can possibly benefit from both Selection and Deliberation Effects.
 
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Rory

Senior Member.
the word is fine

I dunno: I think as Woolery demonstrated there's definitely potential for significant disagreement and confusion.

What they (and we) actually mean is "scientific skepticism" or "rational skepticism" or "modern skepticism" or "the modern skeptical movement" as opposed to the traditional and root meaning of "philosophical skepticism":

The skeptical movement is a contemporary social movement based on the idea of scientific skepticism. The movement has the goal of investigating claims made on fringe topics and determining whether they are supported by empirical research.

With regard to the skeptical social movement, Daniel Loxton refers to other movements already promoting "humanism, atheism, rationalism, science education and even critical thinking" beforehand. He saw the demand for the new movement - a movement of people called "skeptics"- as based on a lack of interest by the scientific community to address paranormal and fringe-science claims. Skeptical organisations typically tend to have science education and promotion among their goals.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_skepticism
Content from External Source
I'd say that's metabunk in a nutshell: "investigation of fringe claims based on science, critical thinking, rationalism, and with science education in mind."

It's also possible that this definition of skeptic may become the dominant one at some point - but that hasn't happened yet.

My suggestions:
  • Recognise our kind of skepticism as a branch of scientific skepticism (what Mick and the SI referred to as "skepticism" and what Ann referred to as "true skepticism")
  • Highlight that this isn't the same as philosophical skepticism, and even though doubt is a common component to both, what is doubted is actually quite different
  • Get the OED to update its definition so that the modern meaning is more prominent than the ancient one
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
I could swear Gary Cook (or one of the guys from that time period) had a thread on just that..why ctists cant be considered skeptics. pretty sure Mick engaged in it (unless i dreamed the whole thing) but i can't find it on MB.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
my perception is that your notion of "genuinely human" and Metabunk's main subject of "claims of evidence" have only a small area of intersection

When I think of that particular dilemma I generally think of this thread:

https://www.metabunk.org/threads/claim-ejaculating-sperm-can-lead-to-loss-of-strength-energy.9614/

in which I wanted to investigate the very widespread idea that male ejaculation can lead to loss of strength - a belief held by goodness knows how many people over a very long period of time even though it may be nothing more than an urban myth.

To summarise what happened:
  • Almost all of the twelve responses were akin to adolescent jokes (including Landru's)
  • No research was done
  • Thread closed
Similar (applicable, real, "human", non-fringe) threads fared likewise. Though some did all right (the menstrual ones, for example).

Not bitter, just saying how it is. ;)
 
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econ41

Senior Member
@LilWabbit Two coments on your latest post. First on what is better for each of two separate features:
However, (a) if the electorate is better than the electoral college at selecting local/regional representatives, and (b) if the electoral college is better than the electorate at selecting a president/policies, (c) then the election outcome not reflecting the popular vote isn't an "error" under the internal logic of such a form of representative democracy.
It is not an "error" by any standards other than it was a system adopted in accordance with the philosophy espoused by the drafters of the Constitution at that time. The contemporary expressed concerns arise because the system does not meet some contemporary preferences which lean towards "popular vote". And the biggest distortion does not come from the Electoral College system per se. Rather than the practice of "winner takes all". It could be simply "solved" by a rule that the actual number of votes - the "popular vote" result at the state level - is submitted into the Presidential selection. Of course, that would make it even more obvious that the Electoral College processes are redundant ceremonies. A lot of posturing which has no significant effect either way given that the current defacto rule followed by most states is "winner takes all".
In my personal opinion, a is true but b is not true under the electoral college system but could be true in an optimal system of representative democracy.
I agree with both a and b as opinions. But "could be true" is a matter of philosophy as to what is an "optimal system".

Then second:
Here's an interesting philosophical analysis comparing direct versus representative democracy:
Yes it is interesting BUT take care as to how it is applied. The article seems to conflate two distinct situations.
(1) Applying "direct democracy" to the President (and VP) selection is what the supporters of the "popular vote" say they want. It is feasible, it adds nothing to the logistics of elections. Simply add the numbers differently. And could be a bit more efficient by making it obvious that the Electoral College is redundant.

BUT
(2) "direct democracy" applied to the whole process of governance would be grossly inefficient. It means every voter has to vote on every bit of legislation? "Representative democracy" is far more efficient whatever the philosophic preference. Logistic efficiency would prevail over philosophy even if there was support for the philosophy.

A sideline you may find amusing - I did but it is British satire, British humour - "direct democracy" taken to the extreme - resulting in a democratic vote to establish an autocratic dictator:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rise_and_Rise_of_Michael_Rimmer
 

Rory

Senior Member.
"direct democracy" applied to the whole process of governance would be grossly inefficient.

If only we had a Swiss member to let us know how it works out for them (not that they vote on every bit of legislation).

A sideline you may find amusing - "direct democracy" taken to the extreme - resulting in a democratic vote to establish an autocratic dictator

The summary reads humorous. Worth a watch? I notice that even Peter Cook said Peter Cook wasn't very good in it.
 

econ41

Senior Member
If only we had a Swiss member to let us know how it works out for them (not that they vote on every bit of legislation).
Sure. Theirs is "more direct" democracy in the operation of Government. But that is drifting off the topic. It is not the topic here. The current discussion is an "off-topic topic". Discussing the interest - expressed concerns - about the current operation of the Electoral College in selecting the President and a suggestion that the "popular vote" should apply to Presidential selection.

That is a vastly different issue than operating the government by "direct democracy" in its ongoing operations.
The summary reads humorous. Worth a watch? I notice that even Peter Cook said Peter Cook wasn't very good in it.
I'm sure it would appeal to you as it did to me. Well worth finding. It may be available on-line I haven't checked.
 
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