Skip navigation


Is it moving the goalposts when a skeptic demands evidence, not just necessary, but sufficient evidence as a reason to accept an extraordinary factual claim?

Is this heavy-handed, this demanding of evidence more sound than just that of alleged but nonetheless seemingly compelling personal experience, the anecdotal testimony of ‘reliable’ eyewitnesses whose accounts don’t sound ‘obviously false’ and who would ‘never lie,’ or ‘irrefutable’ physical evidence like blurry photos, low-resolution video or trace evidence that is either inconclusive or easily faked by even a child (and often has been)?

Is the requirement that a seemingly impressive statistical result of a paranormal study be replicated by others, no matter their beliefs or attitude, excessive or unfair?

I would say not.

Sure… one could argue that I’m arguing for the skeptical position on the need for solid evidence because I’m a skeptic myself, and that would be true, but not for the reasons the accusation would be and often has been given. I take the skeptical position in this because as a skeptic, I just might be in a real position to understand skeptical attitudes, thinking, and reasoning better than, say, someone whose mindset, belief system and values are opposed to those of skeptics.

In discussions I’ve attempted with those who subsequently show themselves to be dedicated advocates of fringe-claims, sort of ‘testing the waters’ so to speak, to see what they’re actually like, and to make reasonably sure that I haven’t misjudged them on the basis of their initial comment, most of the time such attempts at constructive discourse have been unproductive.

Generally, all I’ve learned from such exchanges is the extremes of intellectual strategies that people can and will resort to to protect their cherished personal opinions from questioning or criticism.

True believers tend to have rather peculiar ideas, often rather lax ones, as to what qualifies as reality, science, logic, or evidence, and have shown to me a tendency to dismiss them or the need for them when these do not conform to or otherwise validate their beliefs.

They do not play by the same rules as science, and by that token, their skeptical critics…

It is for this reason that once I establish that someone actually does argue like a crank, I decide that any further attempts at reasoned discussion are pointless, and that I could better spend my time and resources on other matters.

Is this being dismissive? Of course. But it’s dismissal for reasons of practicality.

My time is limited, and there’s no point in devoting attention to playing a game when the ‘other guy’ (both genders)isn’t playing by the same rules, and therefore isn’t really playing the same game.

It is for this reason that I will not debate cranks, quacks, pseudoscientists, antiscientists and other fringe-claimants on the venue of this blog once I figure what they really are from the initial exchange in the comment threads.

This doesn’t mean that I’ll completely ignore them, only that all attempts at rational discourse are now off, and that I’ll no longer cater to their need to defend whatever doctrine or belief-system they happen to hold dear that I had the temerity to criticize.

In my experience, it’s a lot easier to argue constructively with another skeptic than with a believer, because those skeptics I’ve read and met are open to the possibility of being shown wrong, of being convinced by the evidence. This is a key ingredient for intellectual honesty, and in strong contrast with those self-styled champions of What They Know to be A Proven Fact™, who have shown themselves to act as if it were simply unbecoming to change their minds in the light of mere facts and mere reality that could conceivably refute their views.

After all, changing one’s mind and being wrong are weaknesses of character…Aren’t they?..

2 Comments

  1. I would tend to agree with you that it is pointless to argue when your opponent is closed to reason, and no amount of evidence will sway them from the truths they “know”, as they will dismiss any evidence to the contrary as lies or a part of a greater cover-up conspiracy. This mindset seems common to all the “truthers” out there, plus alt-med proponents, climate-change deniers etc.

    As skeptics we’re far better off taking the time to challenge the partially formed, rarely thought out views of the lay-person who has simply accepted some argument from authority, such as a parent or mis-guided friend “who knows such things”, as these folk are far more open to having their less-closely held sacred cows questioned, which can lead to a positive experience.

    Good post, and thanks to Kat aka @abutcherswife for directing me to your blog.

    Like


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kat , Troy Loy. Troy Loy said: On Debating Cranks: http://wp.me/pp4v2-2Kq […]

    Like

Commenting below. No spam or trolling, or my cats will be angry.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Teagan's Books

Now available: "Atonement, Tennessee"

piso project

Everything "Piso Project" Related

Lillyteardrop

A voice from outside the herd.

Glenn Hates Books

Brutally Honest Book Reviews

A Narcissist Writes Letters, To Himself

A Hopefully Formerly Depressed Human Vows To Practice Self-Approval

Enrique Zeleny's Blog

Complexity, Science, Physics, Mathematica, Computer Science, Recreational Math, Education.

Ajoobacats Blog

Saving the world one book at a time

ideas.ted.com

Explore ideas worth spreading, every weekday

Anjali Menon

filmmaker | writer | audience

creekviewcarol

life in the not-so-fast lane

Singapore Maths Tuition

Patient and Dedicated Maths Tutor, NUS Maths (1st Class Honours), Dean's List, Rafflesian

The Science Geek

Astronomy, space and space travel for the non scientist

j.r. thomason

Art–Vision–Design

Tara B. Dobbs

Where my writings come to play.

Double U

The Poetic Journey of John White, writer

Romance Novels for the Beach

Find out which sexy books to bring with you, or leave behind, on your next beach vacation.

TheOpenWindow

Take a walk inside my mind.

Strangetinybird

Mostly poems & things to get me thinking about writing a book.

glimmer of happiness :)

Just anything under the sun that makes me happy. :)

playwithlifeorg

4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site

Elan Mudrow

The Ridges of Intertextuallity

chester maynes

Poetry and Poems

Liberated Way

Action in harmony with nature

GYA today

Give Yourself Away

vulticulus

Just another WordPress.com site

Crystal eyes

books in createspace, kindle

Tell me a story

book in createspace and kindle

Spirits of darkness and light

books in createspace, kindle

Books by Sharmishtha Basu

My (e) Books in Amazon Kindle n Createspace

"Black Mist and other stories"

I dreamt for stars, gathered stardust in my soul, sprinkling some to earth now, waiting for them to grow up in dream wood.

HotDog on ACID

Comics and Doodles

Rare Horror

We provide reviews and recommendations for all things horror. We are particularly fond of 80s, foreign, independent, cult and B horror movies. Please use the menu on the top left of the screen to view our archives or to learn more about us.

Michelle M. Welch

author of speculative fiction

Poetgeneral

In the world of Literature, Anything Is possible. Poetry/ literature is the express expression of the heart and soul.

Write With Warnimont

Write for fun. Write to inspire. Write to change the world.

Echo LaVeaux

...mystical musings from a magical mind...

dpapa

Living a flip flop life!

Dark Matter Space

Seeing Future in Space

Check Out Our Books

Joint venture of Indie writers

Storiform.com

Writing Popular Fiction

Sharmishtha Basu

paintings, poems and thoughts

Realm of Empress Musie

Sharmishtha Basu's poetries

songbird sings to sun

book in kindle and createspace

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,425 other followers

%d bloggers like this: