Why use the word "Debunk"

Pete Tar

Senior Member.
'Dangerous', really? In what way is it dangerous? Are we inciting violence or putting people at risk by debunking things?
Blind credulity is way more dangerous.
If a thing is wrongly claimed as debunked, it will be shown in the work, as a debunking has to be clear and step-by-step, and so if any of your claimed biases are present they will be seen in clear errors. There's nothing 'dangerous' in the least about that.
Perhaps you can provide examples of debunking being dangerous - it sounds completely ridiculous to me.
 

Efftup

Senior Member.
That would be true in an idealized world, but it's not true in reality. "Debunkers" are subject to cognitive biases just like everyone else. They can cherry-pick facts, give more weight to evidence supporting their opinion, etc. Humans are extremely good at convincing themselves that they are right.
If you approach a question with the intent to debunk it, then you will probably manage to debunk it, whatever the question.
That's why the "debunker" mindset is dangerous.
If you have cherry picked facts, and ignored evidence that supports the supposition, then you have NOT DEBUNKED something.

Just like a lot of CT proponents call themselves truthers when they are not really interested in the truth at all.
at least on this site, you are ENCOURAGED to bring evidence to support your point, unlike sites or FB groups that ban people for dissenting or for actually pointing out errors.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Use of a word and a particular mindset are not the same thing. Lots of different people use the word "debunk", example:

Hi everyone. I'm from the Hungarian Skeptics and we find this site and contrailscience.com incredibly useful for our activities. Chemtrail belief is spreading in Hungary, and we have set up a web site, chemtrail.hu, to debunk it in Hungarian. I'm happy to join you.

It's been acknowledged many times that some people think the word implies prejudice. But since it's still a useful word, then people continue to use it.
 

Hama Neggs

Senior Member.
Looks like some people have fallen in love with the word "debunking".
It carries the wrong message.
Of course you can attach explanations to it like "by debunking I don't mean this but that" etc. but it's useless. To most people it will mean that you are out to refute whatever is thrown at you. And to some extent you will indeed assume that mindset--which is wrong.

There is nothing which can be done to keep people from re-defining terms. No matter what we call what we do, it will be re-defined as some sort of nefarious activity, because for them anything showing their theory wrong is a lie.
 

Hama Neggs

Senior Member.
That would be true in an idealized world, but it's not true in reality. "Debunkers" are subject to cognitive biases just like everyone else. They can cherry-pick facts, give more weight to evidence supporting their opinion, etc. Humans are extremely good at convincing themselves that they are right.
If you approach a question with the intent to debunk it, then you will probably manage to debunk it, whatever the question.
That's why the "debunker" mindset is dangerous.

Dangerous? My...

I didn't notice, but have you offered an alternate term you think would be better to use? From this post you seem to object to the activity of challenging the veracity of claims even more than you object to the title "debunker".
 

skephu

Senior Member.
Use of a word and a particular mindset are not the same thing.
That's true but the use of a word may attract and encourage a certain mindset, which is not necessarily a good mindset.
This forum is all about debunking. Debunk this, debunk that, etc. Visitors easily get the impression that the people here are set out to refute everything, approaching everything with the intention to prove it wrong.
 

skephu

Senior Member.
There is nothing which can be done to keep people from re-defining terms.
I don't see a problem here. People have not redefined the term. Actually, it's you guys who try to define it in a particular way, narrowing its meaning to a certain interpretation.
have you offered an alternate term you think would be better to use
There is no perfect term. But I'm with Joe Nickell that investigate is better.
From this post you seem to object to the activity of challenging the veracity of claims even more than you object to the title "debunker".
No. I object to approaching claims with a bias; i.e. the expectation that the claim will be proven false.

Whenever someone comes here asking "please help me debunk this", they indicate that they have already decided the claim is false, and they request evidence to support their decision. This is the wrong way of handling things. The correct request would be "please help me investigate/explain this" or "please help me find out whether this is true".
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
That's true but the use of a word may attract and encourage a certain mindset, which is not necessarily a good mindset.
This forum is all about debunking. Debunk this, debunk that, etc. Visitors easily get the impression that the people here are set out to refute everything, approaching everything with the intention to prove it wrong.

Do you have a suggestion?
 

Hama Neggs

Senior Member.
I don't see a problem here. People have not redefined the term. Actually, it's you guys who try to define it in a particular way, narrowing its meaning to a certain interpretation.

To debunk means to remove bunk. People have absolutely re-defined it to mean "attack with no valid reasoning behind it".

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/debunk


There is no perfect term. But I'm with Joe Nickell that investigate is better.

Then use it.



No. I object to approaching claims with a bias; i.e. the expectation that the claim will be proven false.

That's a bit of unavoidable Human nature you are describing, but on the other hand, how many times should, for example, a claim that "chemtrails exist because..." be accepted as some sort of startling, new information and examined without any hint of an expectation that it is false?

If you care to give examples of instances when this supposed bias has affected an investigation into a subject here on this forum, I'm sure we would all welcome that.

Whenever someone comes here asking "please help me debunk this", they indicate that they have already decided the claim is false, and they request evidence to support their decision.

That is your opinion of their thinking, but even if true it is the subsequent debunking which should be valid, is it not?

The correct request would be "please help me investigate/explain this" or "please help me find out whether this is true".

Good luck on getting people to do that. I guess you also object to the expression: "DEBUNKED... whatever...", as thread titles here?
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
Visitors easily get the impression that the people here are set out to refute everything, approaching everything with the intention to prove it wrong
People are becoming more and more aware of the term bunk as it is being used more often in tv shows, articles, news stories. If people know what bunk is then they know what debunk is. You cant debunk something that isn't bunk.

There is no perfect term. But I'm with Joe Nickell that investigate is better.
i disagree. "investigate" to me is open ended. Perhaps it depends on where you reside geographically. When I'm looking for answers I'm often not interested in people investigating the issue. I want to hear from people that have the answer already.
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
What about: "solve"?

What if the forum thread titles would look like:
Solved: this
Solved: that
etc.
i'll never like the term investigator unless its the police, irs or an insurance guy investigating false claims. at least they have training in evidence, criteria, the law. to me laymen using 'investigator' or 'researcher' is like the term 'therapist'. it makes people sound more knowledgeable then most of them are. at least debunker has the connotation of "comes with evidence attached".

and if you think a debunker's debunk is bunk, then you can always come along and debunk it. we can't start calling people "solvers", "I'm a solver"- sounds too hitman. ;)
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
What about: "solve"?

What if the forum thread titles would look like:
Solved: this
Solved: that
etc.
how about this example. a mathematician solves problems. but the problems they solve are math related so we call them mathematicians.
the problems debunkers solve are bunk related.
I think it just defines things better for people.
 

Pete Tar

Senior Member.
What about: "solve"?

What if the forum thread titles would look like:
Solved: this
Solved: that
etc.

This is metabunk, not metasolve. Mick's multiple posts on why he debunks and why he uses the term are pretty clear. He's defined the term and how he uses it, any misunderstanding is due to comprehension issues and not his fault.
Bunk and debunk are self-explanatory and totally valid in their use here. The objection is pretty subjective.
 

Pete Tar

Senior Member.
Then why would threads be titled 'solved' instead of 'debunked' because of a vague perception it might make some people think it's biased? Those people don't understand the definition of the word and it's not metabunk's problem.
 

MikeC

Closed Account
What about: "solve"?

What if the forum thread titles would look like:
Solved: this
Solved: that
etc.

Because "solved" is usually not true.

If you have removed some bunk from an item you have not "solved" it - you have just cleared up some bunk - eg knowing that contrails can last for hours does not "solve" chemtrails - in fact debunking all the known bunk about chemtrails does not actually "solve" the "issue" - some sort of deliberate spraying remains possible.....it is just hat there is no reasonable evidence to support it.
 

skephu

Senior Member.
Then why would threads be titled 'solved' instead of 'debunked' because of a vague perception it might make some people think it's biased? Those people don't understand the definition of the word and it's not metabunk's problem.
Pete, I was asked to make suggestions and name alternatives. That's what I did.
Obviously nothing will be changed because Metabunk is a brand name and will stick to "debunking".
That doesn't mean we cannot discuss the various nuances and connotations, and cannot play around with other words.
I already presented my arguments, and don't want to repeat myself.
 

Pete Tar

Senior Member.
Okay then fair enough. I think the claim that using the term debunking will make personal bias more likely is not really backed by evidence and is an opinion open to interpretation.
 

Efftup

Senior Member.
Actually, in general it's more important to seek evidence to refute your point than to support it.
I was meaning that peopel who post things are encouraged to come with evidence.

If I boldly make the claim there is a Nazi base on the moon, it needs to be backed with some evidence.
If I am properly scientific then yes, once I have a nazi moonbase hypothesis, I need to try and debunk it, try and knock it down and prove it is false.
If I cannot do so, I then publish my hypothesis or in the case of metabunk. bring it to the table and say, " can this be debunked?" encouraging people to find any flaws in my reasoning or evidence.
If they can't debunk it, there;s a chance it is true.

If I provide no evidence for my supposition there is nothing to debunk, I am simply claiming something with nothing to back it up, so there is nothing to take seriously.
 

WeedWhacker

Senior Member
"Swiss cheese method"?

Either an hypothesis (or claim) has holes in it, and those holes will expand upon examination, showing the hypothesis (or claim) to be bunk...OR the holes will begin to close in, helping to substantiate the hypothesis (or claim).

Inquiry into claims is part of the scientific process. Nothing wrong with subjecting every "new" idea to a high level of scrutiny, before accepting it as having a basis in fact.
 

Svartbjørn

Senior Member.
Obviously nothing will be changed because Metabunk is a brand name and will stick to "debunking".

Its not a matter of branding @skephu, its a matter of being to the point. Metabunk does exactly what it says it does. There's no ambiguity. Its literally what the site's here for. The same goes for the word De-Bunk.. I can understand how it can come across sometimes but thats ultimately up the individual how they interpret it.

Id never heard of bunk or debunking until I came here, but as soon as I saw the word DEBUNK, I knew exactly what the site was about and it had no negative connotations to me what-so-ever.

I approached the site with an open and scientific mind.. I didnt come here with expectation, and thats where the catch lies. IF there is an expectation then the emotional connotation of same inflicts the mind of the individual. Look at the posts we get here... drive by rage posts because anything that conflicts with a predisposed ideology or way of thought automatically creates anger and rage, whether its warrented or not.. it has nothing to do with the word "DEBUNK" or "DEBUNKING" or "DEBUNKER" but the content contained within.

If the prevailing thought in the world is that the sky is green, but someone says 'but, the sky's purple' and it creates a conflict of values or fear because its not what they've been taught, then the first natural reaction is fear which creates anger. Things that are not understood cause fear, and a natural response to fear is fight or flight, which results (quite often) in anger and outrage. The word in and of itself, doesnt cause those emotions UNLESS its been associated with something a person does not agree with.

A quote from Stephen Fry, one of my favorite comedians:

While that quote primarily deals with being offended, the emotional value behind being offended is still the same.. it conjures the same types of emotions. How those emotions are handled, is completely up to the individual.
 

skephu

Senior Member.
Some snippets from Joe Nickell regarding debunkers vs. investigators:
A Sighing Debunker
PhACT: An Interview with Joe Nickell
Other people also have the same objection against the word debunking, e.g. a commenter from Skepticblog.org:
 

Hama Neggs

Senior Member.
Content from external source
it is the investigator rather than the debunker who is apt to know something. Debunkers are quick to be dismissive, or to suggest (antecedent to inquiry) that a claim is a hoax or to offer one or more off-the-shelf explanations (usually based on some investigator’s work—certainly not the debunker’s).

This is talking about differences in people or different people's approaches. How would changing the word used to refer to the different people or approaches change the actions or results?

Other people also have the same objection against the word debunking, e.g. a commenter from Skepticblog.org:

Except that it just isn't true that researchers don't debunk. If you are looking for what is true, you are looking to remove bunk. PROPER debunking does NOT assume anything.
 
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