I am a Pseudoskeptic

I’ve come to the conclusion that I am not a genuine skeptic, but a pseudoskeptic and a pseudointellectual according to Neo-Velikovskians I’ve met online. Yep, I’m downright delusional and deranged, because I believe that…

…anecdotes are only useful for the purpose of forming hypotheses, not testing them,

…Nostradamus was not a prophet—he may have seen things, but not the future,

…there is such a thing as an objective reality, that exists regardless of our wishes, thoughts, and beliefs, and that this is the best,  most rational explanation for the evidence of our senses,

…the scientific community is not a sinister, monolithic conspiracy bent on hiding the truth of the paranormal, nor skeptics a ‘new inquisition,’

…President Barack Obama was born a United States citizen, and that his birth certificate proves this,

…claims of the paranormal can be most parsimoniously explained by conventional means without invoking supernatural powers or phenomena,

…coincidences are real, and that it would be an extraordinary coincidence if extraordinary coincidences didn’t happen as often as they do,

…the Fantasy-Prone Personality type exists as a real psychological phenomenon, even if it explains a person’s belief that they are psychic,

…you don’t have to be crazy, lying, stupid, or uneducated to believe things that just ain’t so,

…unlikely statistical correlation does not equate to paranormal causation, or scientific importance,

…conventional explanations are not weak or implausible & contrived just because they are not understood or known,

…evolution actually happened, and the Earth is billions, not thousands, of years old,

…while electromagnetism does play some astrophysical role in the universe, the principle large-scale binding force of the Cosmos is gravity,

…anthropogenic global warming, and the resultant climate change, are real, and need to be dealt with in a rational manner to stave off their detrimental consequences,

…Quantum mechanics, Classical mechanics, and the Special & General theories of Relativity are all valid descriptions in their own context as to how the universe works,

…conventional evidence-based medicine is not a conspiracy to make and keep you sick, and is safer and more effective than most alternative modalities,

…miracles do not really happen, the mundane actually exists and isn’t boring,

…black holes, quasars, neutron stars, dark matter and dark energy are all real astrophysical entities,

…impact craters on planetary bodies are made by (gasp!) impacts by meteorites, asteroids and comets over billions of years, not electrical scarring over minutes or hours,

…the supernatural and the paranormal probably don’t exist, just the natural, the normal, and those things we have yet to explain,

…looking for conventional explanations and eliminating them one by one is more rational than grasping for supernormal explanations first,

…personal testimony is not a reliable form of proof that something is real, works, or is true,

…skeptical organizations, while not perfect, are generally more factually correct, honest, objective, rational, and fair in their treatment of subject matter than organizations run by paranormal and fringe-science believers,

…meta-analyses are not an accurate way of demonstrating the validity of a set of studies if the component studies have incompatible methodological and statistical protocols, or are ‘tweaked’ or ‘fixed’ after the fact,

…relativism and false balance are not the same thing as objectivity,

…astrology is not a valid science, and has been falsified in every empirical test of it to date,

…the UFO phenomenon is more likely to be psycho-cultural than extraterrestrial in nature,

…open-mindedness is unquestionably a virtue, but not opening your mind so far that your brains fall out,

…Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil, Nessie, Mothman, the Montauk Monster(s), Mokele Mbembe, the Mongolian Death-Worm, and other similar creatures probably don’t exist as real animals,

…free-energy or perpetual motion machines don’t work as claimed, much less at all,

…real science and the wonders of nature are far more interesting than the parochial claims of the paranormal,

…evidence does not have to be ‘absolute concrete physical proof’ to be acceptable in science, or to skeptics,

…claims of fact or statements about reality are not just opinion and immune to being considered wrong just because one wants to believe them,

…the burden of proof for a claim of fact rests primarily upon the one making the claim, not its critics,

…all views should get a fair hearing, but not all views are equally valid in truth content,

…human beings have the unalienable right to believe what they wish, so long as they don’t infringe upon the rights of others to believe what they wish,

…and finally…

…science and reason are superior to authority, ideology, intuition, faith, and mystical experience as ways of knowing the world.

Yessiree, I am just one big-time true believer for harboring all these crazy, irrational ideas… Fnord.

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5 thoughts on “I am a Pseudoskeptic

  1. Pingback: I am a Pseudoskeptic « Rodibidably

  2. I’m neither a pseudo-skeptic nor a Neo-Velikovskian. I’m not sure if I’m in between those ideological extremes or simply outside of this categorical division. The labels I prefer are Fortean, Zetetic, and Pyrrhonian skeptic.

    Similarly, I don’t consider myself either atheist or theist. I sometimes think of myself as an agnostic gnostic which is a position that allows for both the rational and non-rational sides of human experience. At other times, I think of myself as a militant agnostic: I don’t know and neither do you. My problem is that too many people, whatever their ideological persuasion, are too sure of their opinions.

    As for logic and science, I’m for applying such things when and where they’re applicable. But they aren’t always applicable. For instance, if you remember a dream, neither logic nor science will likely be able to offer you much understanding. You can choose to dismiss the dream as nonsense which is your choice, but this would be an avoidance of the complexity and strangeness of human experience. Even in waking life, odd things happen all of the time that can’t be easily explained. Even when there are possible explanations, there is a difference between proposing a hypothesis and explaining something away. Pseudo-skeptics would rather apply logic and science selectively… and so would the Neo-Velikovskians.

    I’m from the school of thought that thinks everything should be questioned and doubted. Nothing is sacred, not religion and not even science. Look at all sides, consider all possibilities, verify all evidence. Everything should be brought to the table: hard science research, social science surveys, demographics, anecdotal evidence, Einsteinian thought experiments, unusual personal experiences, intuitive insight, critical thinking skills, philosophical ideas, theoretical frameworks, socio-historical context. Et Cetera. But, more important than anything, what is required is infinite curiosity and wonder, an unfailing desire for truth and a willingness to follow the evidence where ever it leads. All assumptions and ideology must be left at the door.

    Also, never bow down to any authority. Don’t accept what someone says simply because they claim to be an expert. The moment anyone claims anything, no matter how respectable they may seem, immediately consider all possible criticisms. Always look for the spin, for the vested interests, for the beliefs taken as facts. Continuously search for the alternative perspectives and try to find the outline of truth amidst the fog of opinions.

    In the end, be intellectually humble. Realize how little you know and further realize how infinite the universe is compared to your tiny primate brain. Realize that human knowledge is constantly changing and that much of what is conventionally believed to be fact at present (including mainstream scientific theories) will be proven wrong or severely inadequate in the decades and centuries to come.

    And be practical rather than idealistic. Don’t make religion or science into a belief system that answers all doubts. To the extent any theory is worthy, it is because it works. The ultimate purpose of a theory, including scientific theories, isn’t it being absolutely true. Rather, what matters is if it works.

    As for science, Newtonian physics have been proven wrong in some ways and yet it still works as a model of prediction. It’s an imperfect model, but it’s usually good enough for the purposes of taking action in the world. As for religion, it too has practical effects. There is truth in religion for those with discerning minds. Some things are real and yet can’t presently be explained by science. For example, UFO experiences, religious experiences, and traditional folklore all follow similar patterns. These patterns exist within the human psyche across cultures. In some sense, they’re real. Any particular explanation of them may be wrong, but what is clear is that science hasn’t figured it out as of yet. Yes, there are scientific hypotheses, but a scientific hypothesis is far from being a scientific theory. I look forward to a time when some of these hypotheses can be tested.

    If you’re interested, I was exploring this topic in a recent post:

    http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2009/10/08/debunkers-vs-true-skeptics/

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    • Hey, Ben. Sorry I took so long to respond. I’ve been busy attending to things other than this blog lately, so I haven’t had much time for comment responses. I’ve got a few points to make on my own ideas of skepticism and clarifications on a few points on what it is to me to use modern/scientific neo-skepticism rather the classical/philosophical sort, but it would take up more space than this blog post, so I’ll be publishing it later the week as a full-length piece on this site. I’ll see you then.

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  3. Pingback: RE: I am a Pseudoskeptic « Marmalade

  4. Howdy, Troythulu.

    That is fine. Take your time.

    “clarifications on a few points on what it is to me to use modern/scientific neo-skepticism rather the classical/philosophical sort”

    Sounds interesting. I’ll have to see what you specifically mean about these two categories.

    Going by what I think you probably mean, I tend to embrace both and seek the connections between them. By nature, I suppose I’m more of a philosophical skeptic. But I’ve learned a lot of critical thinking skills from my more practical father (who has made a living by analyzing data and crunching numbers). Even though I sometimes rely on research statistics in making arguments, I tend to be drawn more to the social sciences.

    Another division that some people make are between the social sciences and the ‘hard’ sciences. As I see it, there is no absolutely clear division. Much of scientific methodology comes from social science research. The heavy use of double blinds was influenced by psychological (and medical) research into the placebo effect and the researchers effect. If I remember correctly, meta-analysis was first used by a scientist who had some interest in parapsychology and was looking for a way to analyze large amount of research data. As I see it, the social sciences are the bridge between scientific skepticism and philosophical skepticism.

    My skepticism is towards false conceptual divisions and unhelpful ideological polarities. But my position is based more on my personality than on any belief about how reality actually works. Basically, I get tired of polarized debates where people become entrenched in their beliefs and opinions. I just enjoy intellectual discussion.

    Anyhow, I wait in anticipation for your soon to come post. 🙂

    Like

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