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Thread: Skeptics vs. Believers

  1. #1
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    Why is it that people who believe the moon landings took place are called "skeptics," while those who are skeptical of them are called believers?
    Granted, they're hoax believers, but it still seems so backwards...

  2. #2
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    The English language moves by contraries at times. People who are skeptical about evolution and tremendous ages for the universe are also called "Believers", and people who believe in evolution/old universe are called "skeptics".

    The (ghost of) Curtmudgeon

  3. #3
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    The Amazing Randi calls himself a skeptic because he doesn't believe in astrology or homeopathy or Uri Gellar like an upsettingly large proportion of the population. Since we all admire Randi (BA definitely does and it's his board) we take the name skeptic in honour of him.

    I prefer to use debunker though.

  4. #4
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    A connotation of the word "skeptic" is one who requires a certain level of proof prior to expressing his belief. This establishes a fairly obvious enmity with controversial theories such as extraterrestrial crop circles, alien abductions, and similar hypotheses for which there is very scant, if any, usable evidence. Skeptics then become those who reject extraordinary conclusions due to lack of extraordinary proof.

    Some moon hoax conspiracists refer to themselves as "skeptics" citing another connotation that amounts to "disbeliever". They figure that if they don't believe NASA's claim, they are skeptical of it and require additional proof.

  5. #5
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    On 2003-01-13 16:22, Wingnut Ninja wrote:
    Why is it that people who believe the moon landings took place are called "skeptics," while those who are skeptical of them are called believers?
    Granted, they're hoax believers, but it still seems so backwards...
    Well, here are the thoughts of a genuine Skeptic (I'm the Vice Pres of the local skeptic group).

    A cynical person believes nothing, regardless of evidence.

    A gullible person believes everything, regardless of evidence.

    A skeptical person believes whatever there is good evidence for.

    In the case of the Moon landings, there IS good evidence. So we believe.

    Don't fall into the mistake of assuming that a skeptic is a person who automatically doesn't believe. It's more a case of saying, "That's interesting - now prove it." People like Jay and the BA have done a very good job of proving it.

  6. #6
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    On 2003-01-13 16:52, Glom wrote:
    The Amazing Randi calls himself a skeptic because he doesn't believe in astrology or homeopathy or Uri Gellar like an upsettingly large proportion of the population...
    Here is what Edgar Mitchell had to say about the Randi / Gellar debate on his excellent website:

    Randi is the fraud, not Geller. There are a number of circumstances where Randi has refused to participate because he could not ®stack the deck®. You have not followed it closely nor accurately enough, believing what you choose to believe. Having studied not only Geller and a few others with strong capabilities under rigorous conditions for 30 years, the problem is not the evidence but in finding the mechanism (within quantum mechanics) to understand this ubiquitous natural phenomenon. Within a few more years, as quantum understanding is better applied to bio matter, these natural human events will no longer be a mystery. They have only been a mystery and outside scientific dogma arising from Newtonian concepts

    Would the BA care to comment on this?

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  8. #8
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    On 2003-01-13 18:16, Ian R wrote:
    Would the BA care to comment on this?
    It's not astronomy-related, so all I will say is that in my limited experience, I have seen no compelling evidence of ESP powers of any kind.

  9. #9
    ^ I knew you were going to say that! [img]/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif[/img]

    (Sorry, couldn't resist...)

  10. #10
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    On 2003-01-13 18:16, Ian R wrote:
    On 2003-01-13 16:52, Glom wrote:
    The Amazing Randi calls himself a skeptic because he doesn't believe in astrology or homeopathy or Uri Gellar like an upsettingly large proportion of the population...
    Here is what Edgar Mitchell had to say about the Randi / Gellar debate on his excellent website:

    Randi is the fraud, not Geller. There are a number of circumstances where Randi has refused to participate because he could not ®stack the deck®. You have not followed it closely nor accurately enough, believing what you choose to believe. Having studied not only Geller and a few others with strong capabilities under rigorous conditions for 30 years, the problem is not the evidence but in finding the mechanism (within quantum mechanics) to understand this ubiquitous natural phenomenon. Within a few more years, as quantum understanding is better applied to bio matter, these natural human events will no longer be a mystery. They have only been a mystery and outside scientific dogma arising from Newtonian concepts

    Would the BA care to comment on this?
    Well, I for one think it's a bit rich calling James Randi a fraud. He's happy to test people for their supposed abilities, but I think you'll find it's Geller who backs out of these tests, not Randi.

    And as much as I admire Mitchell for his work on Apollo, I'd question a lot of what he says above. The statement about "stacking the deck" is not acceptable, and I suspect the statements about "rigorous conditions" and "ubiquitous natural phenomenon" are questionable.

    He was featured on a David Suzuki program recently screened in Australia, and he made similar sorts of statements, which Suzuki accepted without question.

    I, on the other hand, would like to see some evidence. If there's good evidence, I'll accept it. If not, I won't.

  11. #11
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    I am reminded of a scene in Contact.

    Ellie: I need proof.
    PalmerConsiders that, then) Did you love your father?
    Elliesurprised) Yes... of course.
    Palmer:Prove it.

    In the extraordinary claim, "Apollo was faked" extraordinary evidence is required. The True Skeptic's needs must be met.

    However, in realms of thought and mind, quantifying subjective experience is extremely difficult.

    I had a specific thought a few minutes ago. I cannot prove it's occurence. Was it a real thought?

    Although not willing to go as far as Mitchell, our opinions of Randi are not too far apart...

    Since the debunking of the HB's, with a lucid Skeptic's rigourous method is essential here, perhaps my input is too much of a tangent.

    Just some thoughts... [img]/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif[/img]

    _________________
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    <font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: DaveOlden on 2003-01-14 01:49 ]</font>

  12. #12
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    But a skeptic accepts that proof is impossible in some cases. However, it is appropriate to require proof when proof is possible and customary. When someone says that a certain historical event happened (e.g., a hoax to falsify the moon landings) it is appropriate to supply proof that the event actually happened. Instead, the hoax believers supply a hypothesis which would be putatively true if the hoax had occurred, which is most certainly not the same thing. The fallacy of affirming the consequent applies in this case; the hoax believers have started the intellectual process but not carried it to completion. In this type of investigation there is no partial credit. You don't get points just for showing up to the race. You actually have to run the course and cross the finish line. The hoax believers not only fail to do that, they don't seem to understand that it's necessary. Thus the skeptic's response is quite appropriate. Failure to submit proof when proof is required and possible dooms one's conclusion to rejection.


  13. #13
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    Why is it that people who believe the moon landings took place are called "skeptics," while those who are skeptical of them are called believers?
    believers ?
    that's the question.
    those who wrote books supporting moon landing hoax ( ia. one in France + one in Germany ), I wonder if they BELIEVE in their own book or not.
    2 possibilities:
    - he's REALLY a HB, and wants to draw more folk in his belief ??
    - he's not a HB. his aim is to make money on folk's naivety/ignorance ??

  14. #14
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    That's why I like Jay's term conspiracist. It describes someone who is a proponent of a conspiracy theory. It doesn't matter whether or not they are sincere about their proposition, they are still proposing it.

  15. #15
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    Giving proof works both ways. I've agreed that it was not a hoax. Everyone knows that. But if I come up with a piece of evidence tha supports Apollo, and it doesn't hold any water, I'm still taken to task by Jay and others, even though I'm agreeing with them. This has happened more than once. [img]/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif[/img]

    To most people here, it's not about whether or not the arguments support Apollo, it's whether the arguments can be demonstrated to be correct.

  16. #16
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    Wingnut Ninja said:
    Why is it that people who believe the moon landings took place are called "skeptics," while those who are skeptical of them are called believers? Granted, they're hoax believers, but it still seems so backwards...
    It does seem ironic, using the simple dictionary term. There is a group of people who call themselves skeptics. They use that term to mean they look at claims and want to see the evidence to support it. Typically they are addressing paranormal claims, thus they are typically in the position of not believing, or at least not accepting outright. They want evidence before belief, something that is hard to come by in paranormal circles. The term skeptic is applied to the mindset, the attitude, the systemic search for and evaluation of evidence, and not blind acceptance.

    In the moon hoax debate, the moon hoax proponents are the ones putting forward the idea. They could be described as skeptical of the moon missions, using the dictionary definition of "one who doubts". But they are putting forward their own thesis - that the moon missions were hoaxes. Thus they are the proponents of the idea under discussion. In that situation, it is the people who are evaluating their claim that are the skeptics - we doubt their claim, and are skeptical of it.

    The English language is full of situations that apply words in ways that seem counter to their outward appearance. There is usually some underlying reversal of circumstances in the word origin that makes that usage follow the convention while appearing to run counter to it. Parkway vs. driveway, for instance.

    Glom said:
    Since we all admire Randi (BA definitely does and it's his board) we take the name skeptic in honour of him.
    Perhaps that is an individual case for you, but in general the people who call themselves skeptics are not doing so out of any sense of honoring Randi or any other particular person. It is, as described above, a label applied to a mindset of looking for the evidence to support the claim, and evaluating the evidence. Randi is a noted and admired skeptic, but the term is not used out of any particular homage to him.

    Regarding Edgar Mitchell and his quote, it is difficult to evaluate the specifics of his statements because we are not privy to what exactly occurred in the situations that he describes. We are left with his interpretation of the events only. That leaves us with a very one-sided representation. He claims that Randi is a fraud. He there are circumstances where Randi refused to participate because he couldn't "stack the deck". Since we are not privy to the circumstances, how can we evaluate what really happened?

    Well, we can look at alternate information and make a judgement call. Anyone familiar with James Randi had reviewed his webside www.randi.org, and looked closely at the Million Dollar Challenge rules. And most have read his columns where he describes various applicants and the types of situations he encounters, and read accounts of the tests he has performed. I invite you to read the rules of the Challenge as posted.
    http://www.randi.org/research/challenge.html

    Applicants must state clearly what they claim as their special ability, and test procedures must be agreed upon by both parties before any testing will take place. All tests must be designed in such a way that the results are self-evident, and no judging process is required. We do not design the protocol independently of the claimant, who must provide clear guidelines so that the test may be properly set.
    Bolding mine for emphasis.

    Note the clear explanation that the test is designed with the participation of the claimant. The test has to be approved by the claimant in advance, as well as by JREF. This is a must for the test to be valid - the claimant has to feel confident they can perform on the day and time and under the conditions of the test. If not, it would not be an appropriate test. Prior to testing, the claimant is allowed to do practice runs using the test setup but with controls removed, to verify they can do the test that day and under those conditions, and there is no special circumstances of which they were not aware of to later justify a failure.

    For example, a dowser might be looking for a bucket of water from a series of buckets, the others full of sand, and each placed under an identical box. The practice run would be made with the boxes open, so the dowser can see which has the water. He would then dowse until he eliminates any variables that would preclude him from testing and the answer being unclear. Move the boxes appropriately far apart so there's no interference or confusion over which box he's pointing to, for instance. An example might be four boxes, ten feet away from him, with him in the center. That way, the direction he points the rods is 90 degrees away from each other, making a very clear determination. Only after the claimant has shown that he can perform under those circumstances with those boxes would the controls be applied, in this case removing him from the room and setting the buckets up and closing the boxes and then having the people who know the setup leave before the dowser enters.

    Okay, so now we have two stories. We have Randi's side, which says the claimant decides what he can and cannot do and what constitutes success and failure, and that the conditions are appropriate that he can perform. And we have Mitchell's statement that Randi has to stack the deck. Which of these do you believe?

    Consider this: the key phrase of the test is that it must be conducted under "proper viewing conditions", or in other words with appropriate controls to prevent purposeful deceit or accidental misevaluation. If the claimant does not wish to play by these rules, the test will not go forward. It has been shown numerous times Geller's operating procedure. He does not like to sit down for controlled tests, but will happily demonstrate his talents ad nauseum under uncontrolled circumstances. So if Geller (or anyone else Mitchell knew) entered into discussion with Randi and JREF for a test, and then balked at the controls JREF wished to implement, then Randi would refuse the test. This could easily be characterized by one so intentioned as Randi backing out because he couldn't stack the deck.

    But how can Randi stack the deck? The claimant decides if he can do the test, and helps design the protocol. And determination of success vs. failure is designed to be clear and unequivocal, and require no subjective evaluation.

    So, who should we believe? The skeptical position is "Show me some evidence Randi wanted to stack the deck." What kind of evidence? A start would be a detailed description of the negotiations, including time and place, participants, and depositions about the conversation content. Also, descriptions of the claim, and what "stacking the deck" means. What was it Randi proposed that was stacking the deck?

    Mitchell's statement:
    Having studied not only Geller and a few others with strong capabilities under rigorous conditions for 30 years, the problem is not the evidence but in finding the mechanism (within quantum mechanics) to understand this ubiquitous natural phenomenon.
    What constitutes "rigorous conditions"? How is Mitchell qualified to observe for these effects? How trained is he in looking for deliberate misdisrection? That's one of Randi's main themes - scientists and technical types (i.e. engineers, astronauts) are trained to observe for causative links. To some extent, they're trained to look for unintentional interference, things that affect the outcome but are not related to the effect being investigated. But most are not trained to look for intentional fraud. When scientists do tests, they are usually not trying to make the outcome be a specific way, though they may miss subconscious influences or interpret things according to their prejudices. But in the parapsychology world, intentional fraud by the test participants is not only possible, it frequently occurs. This means controls must be implemented that eliminate the possibility of fraud. Not reduce, not mitigate, but eliminate. That's part of what's wrong with the testing at the University of Arizona by Gary Schwartz. He admits the tests are not fully controlled. That's the problem with the SRI tests of Geller in the seventies - Geller performed all day long uncontrolled demonstrations, and the scientists used those demonstrations as part of their evidence.

    So Mitchell may be convinced the effects are real, but that does not mean his characterization of the testing as rigorous is valid, nor does it validate his claim of witnessing strong capabilities, nor that the evidence is there. Contrary to his opinion, the evidence is lacking. His references to quantum physics are just grasping at straws, hiding in the confusing nature of an esoteric technical field.

    DaveOlden said:
    However, in realms of thought and mind, quantifying subjective experience is extremely difficult.
    Yes, subjective experience is hard to quantify. However, claims of psychic effects involve objective outcomes. There's a lot more that can be said on the topic, but this really isn't the forum for it. I've probably gone on too long already.

  17. #17
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    Irishman, you haven't gone on too long, but I think your post pretty well sums it up. If the Mitchell quote can be taken at face value, it demonstrates pretty well how an intelligent and thoughtful person can buy into nonsense. It really comes down to the need to believe.

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