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Thread: Hi, BAUT folks... [debunking "ancient astronauts", "psychics" and "ghosts"]

  1. #1
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    Hi, BAUT folks... [debunking "ancient astronauts", "psychics" and "ghosts"]

    Not quite sure where to put this, so I'll have to rely on the wisdom of our Admins to move it if it needs moving. =)

    My uncle is an educated man, pursuing his Ed. D. and working as a middle school principal (for those not familiar with the US education system, his students are ages 12 to 14). Over the holidays, we were watching some of the trash TV about "ghosts" and "psychics". I mentioned that it was all bogus and he seemed startled that I was so "analytically minded" that I would dismiss "evidence" of supernatural phenomena. Having not frequented this forum in some time, I didn't have any fresh debunking stories to share. I was wondering whether any of you would be so kind to point me to some good forum topics and/or BA stories that I could send him about "ancient astronauts", "psychics" and "ghosts"? I think both he and his students would be the better for a little dose of hard science. =)


    Regards,

    Tes

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    Sounds like my friend that says I'm closed minded every time he brings up any E.U. theory.

    Have you asked him if he believes in dragons, elves, gnomes and unicorns? They have about the same amount of "evidence".

    Point him towards James Randi's site

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tesarra View Post
    Not quite sure where to put this, so I'll have to rely on the wisdom of our Admins to move it if it needs moving. =)

    My uncle is an educated man, pursuing his Ed. D. and working as a middle school principal (for those not familiar with the US education system, his students are ages 12 to 14). Over the holidays, we were watching some of the trash TV about "ghosts" and "psychics". I mentioned that it was all bogus and he seemed startled that I was so "analytically minded" that I would dismiss "evidence" of supernatural phenomena. Having not frequented this forum in some time, I didn't have any fresh debunking stories to share. I was wondering whether any of you would be so kind to point me to some good forum topics and/or BA stories that I could send him about "ancient astronauts", "psychics" and "ghosts"? I think both he and his students would be the better for a little dose of hard science. =)


    Regards,

    Tes
    I think now I perhaps understand the shortcomings of our education system a bit better. This is discouraging.

    The burden of proof seems to be going the wrong way. What evidence does your uncle have for any supernatural phenomenon ?

    I also question your definition of "educated". If your uncle is making the sort of statements that you represent him to have made, then he does not qualify in my book.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrRocket View Post
    I also question your definition of "educated". If your uncle is making the sort of statements that you represent him to have made, then he does not qualify in my book.
    One may easily be educated and still believe incorrect things. Happens all the time. I would imagine he has the diploma on the wall to show his education. That he seems to have missed critical thinking skills--and I agree that encouraging him to provide evidence is the way to go about it--does not detract from any work he may have done which is not evident from two sentences' description.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gillianren View Post
    One may easily be educated and still believe incorrect things. Happens all the time. I would imagine he has the diploma on the wall to show his education. That he seems to have missed critical thinking skills--and I agree that encouraging him to provide evidence is the way to go about it--does not detract from any work he may have done which is not evident from two sentences' description.
    As far as I am concerned evidence of deficiency in the ability to think critically is evidence of failure to have been actually educated, whether or not the individual has a diploma. A diploma may be just a worthless piede of paper. Being educated on the other hand may not be causally related to having done productive work.

    The notion of a so-called educator lacking critical thinking skills, and professing belief in the supernatural strikes terror. I would far rather have an uncertified person with good thinking skills teaching young children than I would someone with a paper doctorate and a belief in ghosts and goblins.

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    Well, he has on at least one occasion been recognized at the national level as "teacher of the year" or something like that (oddly enough, he was teaching 8th grade science at the time).

    At any rate, it's not that he lacks intelligence or perception (certainly not lacking "education" in the sense that he's successfully completed multitudes of college and graduate courses). I've seen this in a lot of otherwise intelligent and educated folks. Somehow they get the impression that science is "dry", "analytical" and shouldn't be applied to "spiritual" things like "hauntings" or "UFO sightings".

    I've tried to do some searches on the forum for "ancient astronauts" and the like, but it's very difficult to sort through the results and pick out the ones that have good references to the "evidence" as well as to the methodology applied to debunk the woo woo stuff.


    Tes

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    Quote Originally Posted by WayneFrancis View Post
    Point him towards James Randi's site
    Awesome, WayneFrancis. JREF was exactly what I was trying to remember when he and I were having this conversation and it completely slipped from my memory. Being over 40 stinks! =)

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrRocket View Post
    As far as I am concerned evidence of deficiency in the ability to think critically is evidence of failure to have been actually educated, whether or not the individual has a diploma.
    Isaac Newton.

    In one man you have someone who is rationally explaining the workings of the world in mechanistic terms with his laws of motion, work relating to the properties of light, inventing calculus, and then you have a superstitious alchemist, a sorcerer wannabe.

    Jack Parsons.

    Brilliant rocket scientist by day, occultist by night.

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    How do you know he simply wasn't playing devil's advocate?

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    On a related note, I've seen a 'young' version of the ghost-hunting-scam-shows on one of the payTV kid's channels - "Ghost Trackers". It was complete with young presenters doing all the same sort of fakery (off camera 'clunk' - 'what was THAT?!!') seen on the adult versions. Frankly, I was disgusted to see this sort of thing being promoted in that arena - you would have to wonder what goes on behind the scenes. Teaching a new generation of scammers, and deliberately frightening and misinforming kids?

    I'm seriously thinking of writing to one of our local science personalities (Dr Karl, maybe?) to see if he might be interested in pointing a bit of public scrutiny (eg (and especially) science educators) at them.


    Not happy.


    PostScript - I just took a quick look at their Wiki entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_Trackers), which appears to have been written by their PR department, and it includes these gems:

    ...This show has the expertise of advanced technicians and scientists with all the latest equipment allowing our group to be on the cutting edge of technology when conducting our investigations.

    (emphasis mine)

    Ghost Trackers are a professional research group with years of experience... educating the public with regard to ghostly activity.... they are able to examine more closely, elaborate and add depth and definition to their theories and correctly document the paranormal activities currently occurring across the country and around the world. Taking the scientific theories used and testing them using environmental, geologic, neurologic and paranormal parameters allows them to form better theories for future use. Testing different elements for research, on equipment, or using our psychomanteum...

    Psychomanteum, huh? Well, there's a recognised professional scientific tool.

    Utilizing scientific tools, they are also able to begin the testing of psychics, sensitives and mediums to determine the correlation between the environment and their talents. Ghost Trackers uses a diverse group of people from nurses and psychologists to office workers and teachers

    Well, that's all OK, then!

    and then...

    All Ghost Trackers episode's [sic] are played by actors


    Sigh.

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    I always think it strange that people equate critical thinking with the belief that there isn't a supernatural component to reality.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SkepticJ View Post
    Isaac Newton.

    In one man you have someone who is rationally explaining the workings of the world in mechanistic terms with his laws of motion, work relating to the properties of light, inventing calculus, and then you have a superstitious alchemist, a sorcerer wannabe.

    Jack Parsons.

    Brilliant rocket scientist by day, occultist by night.
    Actually that's a bit harsh.

    Another description would be that he began with each discipline at the point it had developed to by the time he got there, he was fortunate to start with mathematics and physics at a time where their old paradigms were crumbling and thus were poised to take a great leap forward and he was one of those who participated in the leap.
    Chemistry was still entrenched in the previous paradigm of alchemy, which was one reason why his work there was not revolutionary at all.

    I can't help to think that if there had been something to alchemy, he could have been one to put it in proper order.
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    I once had a psychotherapist that had his Reiki certificates of 'mastership' displayed clearly next to his other, legitimate credentials. I asked him if they were up there just for laughs, and he became offended.

    So, as a rule, I no longer attended appointments assigned to me by my corporate benefits program.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frog march View Post
    I always think it strange that people equate critical thinking with the belief that there isn't a supernatural component to reality.
    I don't find it strange at all, and in fact consider it a logical progression.

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    I know a doctor (of medical variety, a physician in other words) who is vehemently anti-alt-medicine (homeopathy a pet peeve) but tends to eat up all sorts of conspiracy theories ("Moon hoax", 9/11...). I suppose many if not most people do have a grey area of cognitive dissonance in their worldview someplace.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolusLupus View Post
    I don't find it strange at all, and in fact consider it a logical progression.
    why do you think that that is logical progression?


    It seems to me we may never know everything, maybe we will only scratch the surface in terms of understanding how everything works, so it doesn't seem illogical, to me, to believe in the supernatural.
    And things have happened that have lead me to believe in it, like thinking of someone you haven't seen for years, and then the next day you see them, sort of thing.

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    Because an argument from ignorance gives no power to an assertion. Saying, "We don't know much about X, so X must be supernatural" is, in fact, totally illogical, since you just admitted you don't know much about X.

    Basic critical thinking.

    And no, I don't give any credence at all to psychic powers; in fact, almost every psychic claim has been long since debunked. And as for your "thinking of someone you haven't seen for years", thing, people tend to forget misses and remember hits. Standard "psychic" bunk. Coincidences are coincidences, and putting any "supernatural" power to them is pointless.

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    I suppose one might define "critical thinking" in a way that allows one to assume the existence of supernatural with little to no evidence. But usually I find it's more a case of the aforementioned cognitive dissonance: there is a point where your thinking suddenly ceases to be so critical after all; instead you start to accept things at face value or based on faith.

    Thus, a Bible literalist Christian climatologist might critically examine ice cores for evidence of global warming yet completely uncritically ignore that they also undermine his/her young Earth creationist world view. To mention an example I recently came across on teh Interwebs.
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    Quote Originally Posted by HenrikOlsen View Post
    Actually that's a bit harsh.

    Another description would be that he began with each discipline at the point it had developed to by the time he got there, he was fortunate to start with mathematics and physics at a time where their old paradigms were crumbling and thus were poised to take a great leap forward and he was one of those who participated in the leap.
    Chemistry was still entrenched in the previous paradigm of alchemy, which was one reason why his work there was not revolutionary at all.

    I can't help to think that if there had been something to alchemy, he could have been one to put it in proper order.
    Kepler did horoscopes to pay the bills. He was one of the first astronomers and started the split between astronomy and astrology.

    All I know about the supernatural there is not much proof for it at the moment so therefore I can not tell if it exists or not.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tnjrp View Post
    I suppose many if not most people do have a grey area of cognitive dissonance in their worldview someplace.
    I don't think that's true. [Unless you mean the next bit.]

    There are certainly grey areas of lack of knowledge in my own case. I don't have a strong grasp of politics, or how money works. So if someone makes some claim to do with one of these subjects, my response is going to be along the lines of, "That may be so, I don't know one way or the other."

    Similarly, a friend of mine who I've mentioned before is a believer in colour therapy, and recently achieved a diploma in it. Because she's my friend, I've tended to take the attitude of, "I dunno, maybe there's something in it," because at least we know colours affect moods in much the same way that planetary positions completely fail to affect personalities. But I certainly wouldn't champion it as a science, or pay for someone to practise on me

    In short, there are clearly areas that people lack the time or inclination to investigate, but that's not the same as buying into nonsense.

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidlpf View Post
    Kepler did horoscopes to pay the bills. He was one of the first astronomers and started the split between astronomy and astrology.

    All I know about the supernatural there is not much proof for it at the moment so therefore I can not tell if it exists or not.
    Copernicus? Was still trying to prove his "God's Geometry" idea even up to the time he died.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley
    I suppose many if not most people do have a grey area of cognitive dissonance in their worldview someplace
    I don't think that's true
    Oh, I'm sure there are people who are eminently logical all the way through and always critically examine all aspects of an issue before committing to an opinion, or else specifically decline from forming one. But I do suspect they are in the minority, if the entirety of humankind is considered. Of course this is simply a hunch and not the result of a critical examination of data
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    Oh, and also, isn't the supernatural supernatural until it has been investigated and (begun to be) understood, after which it becomes part of nature?

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    Penn and Teller may not be the most authoritative experts, but I do think that their hypothesis on how everyone has their own "gris gris" -- that everyone has SOME kind of irrational belief they latch onto, even though they're rational almost everywhere else -- is more or less true. It's just that we rarely stop to truly question ALL of our beliefs; and sometimes questioning them leads to even stranger beliefs. People are amazingly good at fooling themselves.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    Oh, and also, isn't the supernatural supernatural until it has been investigated and (begun to be) understood, after which it becomes part of nature?
    I suppose so. I guess lightning and the sun were supernatural once. But if that's the case, then I'm doubly unconvinced about anything involving the "supernatural". Apparently, it's just natural processes that I don't have full access to all the knowledge of. And again -- coincidences are often perceived as "miracles", and there's nothing supernatural about a coincidence.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tnjrp View Post
    Oh, I'm sure there are people who are eminently logical all the way through and always critically examine all aspects of an issue before committing to an opinion, or else specifically decline from forming one. But I do suspect they are in the minority, if the entirety of humankind is considered. Of course this is simply a hunch and not the result of a critical examination of data
    Well, to be fair, my disagreement is simply a hunch too, so perhaps we can agree to nonvehemently differ?

    More seriously, it occurs to me that many people believe silly things simply because they don't have a concept of critical thinking. I've come across the term many times on BAUT, a few times on TV programmes about ghosts, conspiracies and aliens etc, very occasionally in the context of education, and pretty much never in everyday life.

    Come to that, I've probably heard the word "feeling" more often than "thinking", critical or not!

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    Quote Originally Posted by SolusLupus View Post
    Copernicus? Was still trying to prove his "God's Geometry" idea even up to the time he died.
    As I said Kepler was one of the first. Also Copernicus was Canon for the church, that is how he paid his bills.


    He have been trying to prove his "God's geometry" but he also came up with the planetary motion laws that are still used today. Also he published his results in his lifetime, Copernicus chickened out and di not publish until after his death. Kepler also fought his own church defending his views.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolusLupus View Post
    And again -- coincidences are often perceived as "miracles", and there's nothing supernatural about a coincidence.
    They can be scary, though! The best I ever heard about - some time in the 1990s - concerned an AA* man out on a call. A woman back at base had reason to phone him, but when she got hold of his personal information, she accidentally dialled his employee number instead of his mobile phone number.

    The number she dialled happened to be that of a public phone - one a very short distance from the AA man, who was sorting out somebody's car. He answered it, and was surprised to discover it was for him.

    What I particularly liked about the story when I heard it on TV was that they made no attempt to pin a supernatural explanation to it. It was simply a massive coincidence.


    *Automobile Association

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    More seriously, it occurs to me that many people believe silly things simply because they don't have a concept of critical thinking
    This is of course a distinctive possibility, in fact even something I find likely. But still I've never personally met anyone who actually is so gullible as to believe absolutely anything.

    So even people who don't really have the concept of critical thinking or skeptisism or whathaveyou are usually still able to, well, perhaps instinctively feel that in some cases they are indeed being fooled (by themselves, as the case may be).
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    Quote Originally Posted by tnjrp View Post
    This is of course a distinctive possibility, in fact even something I find likely. But still I've never personally met anyone who actually is so gullible as to believe absolutely anything.

    So even people who don't really have the concept of critical thinking or skeptisism or whathaveyou are usually still able to, well, perhaps instinctively feel that in some cases they are indeed being fooled (by themselves, as the case may be).
    There is also the lingering problem that is being put about: One person's opinion is as good as any other person's opinion.

    Never mind that this is obviously and demonstrably and dangerously wrong, it still gets put about because it sounds caring and diplomatic and very Equal Opportunity and Diversityish.

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