I'm Skeptical.
July 15, 2002 9:50 PM   Subscribe

I'm Skeptical. UFOs, psychic phenomenon, Bigfoot, or miracles got you down? Consult the Skeptic's Dictionary. Debunker James Randi is online as well, while psychic Sylvia Browne just refuses to take $1 million dollars.
posted by owillis (13 comments total)
I'm putting my money on the blind German psychic. In fact, I'd bet my ass on him.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:17 PM on July 15, 2002

I still think Randi should have given the money to the Vinyl Vision guy - one of the few people who have surprised him.
posted by vacapinta at 10:29 PM on July 15, 2002

Nice links, thanks! The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has good entries on Skepticism, Ancient Skepticism and Moral Skepticism.
posted by homunculus at 10:36 PM on July 15, 2002

Hey, that vinyl vision thing! *stares at CD...nothing*
posted by Mack Twain at 12:14 AM on July 16, 2002

If Brown is evil, well I wouldn't paint the skeptics as knights on white horses. Randi and his CSICOP buddies have been rightfully criticized as overzealous and simply bad scientists. In fact Randi has no scientific background.

Robert Sheldrake asks Randi about one his debunkings:
I then asked members of the JREF Scientific Advisory Board to help me find out more about this claim. They did indeed help by advising Randi to reply. In an email sent on Februaury 6, 2000 he told me that the tests he referred to were not done at the JREF, but took place "years ago" and were "informal". They involved two dogs belonging to a friend of his that he observed over a two-week period. All records had been lost. He wrote: "I overstated my case for doubting the reality of dog ESP based on the small amount of data I obtained. It was rash and improper of me to do so."

Randi also claimed to have debunked one of my experiments with the dog Jaytee, a part of which was shown on television. Jaytee went to the window to wait for his owner when she set off to come home, but did not do so before she set off. In Dog World, Randi stated: "Viewing the entire tape, we see that the dog responded to every car that drove by, and to every person who walked by." This is simply not true, and Randi now admits that he has never seen the tape.
The Skepdic has an embrassingly level of negative bias. Even though there's some good information on there, its hard to get through the attitude and I don't pretend its anything like Snopes.

I really don't see this whole neo-skeptic movement as reason vs. credulity. Both sides are selling opposing viewpoints. Brown wants you to believe in psychic phenomenon and Randi want to sell you on scientific materialism at any cost.
posted by skallas at 1:51 AM on July 16, 2002

I dunno. I tend to side with the Randis and CSICOP folks in the face of a populace increasingly seeming to buy psychic phenomena and other things of its ilk as real without critical thinking.
posted by owillis at 2:14 AM on July 16, 2002

On re-reading that I wanted to stress 'at any cost.' If it comes down to cooking data so be it.
posted by skallas at 2:23 AM on July 16, 2002

Without critical thinking, that's the key point, isn't it. And that's not likely to change, regardless of which side is feeding the biased information. The question then becomes, is it better to have a populace that believes all sorts of crazy things without much thought, or a populace that is very resistant to believing things, again without much thought.
posted by Nothing at 2:59 AM on July 16, 2002

That is, assuming the information is biased, but it seems that the groups that get the most public attention, and thus have the most impact on what people believe, are also the most biased.
posted by Nothing at 3:03 AM on July 16, 2002

I'd like to see Sonya Fitzpatrick take the 1 Million Dollar Paranormal challenge. I am generally open minded about the paranormal, taking claims on a case by case basis, but I am utterly unimpressed with her skills. Perception and common sense are excellent qualities to have, but it's a little disingenious to base a pet psychic career on them.
posted by jennyb at 4:33 AM on July 16, 2002

In the bigger picture, if people were better critical thinkers, we wouldn't have such terrible leaders. Politicians spin things this way and that and the sheep follow. Instead, it would be nice for everyone to have a functioning BS detector ... even for just one day.
posted by quirked at 6:56 AM on July 16, 2002

if someone offered a million dollars for me to do what i make a living at--for much less--i'd do it. Even if i didn't want the money i'd do it. Unless under scientific scrutiny it would be proven that i don't know html and that i couldn't find the crop tool in photoshop to save my life.
posted by th3ph17 at 10:16 AM on July 16, 2002

Ah science. Just as reactionary and dogmatic as religion, only not half as much fun to mock.

I'm a true skeptic, not a debunker. I find debunkers about as credible as people who think that every light they see in the sky is a flying saucer. Both groups are totally closed minded about everything.
posted by mark13 at 7:54 AM on July 17, 2002

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