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Allan Mazur - Implausible Beliefs
Posted: 08 August 2008 05:13 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Allan Mazur, a sociologist and an engineer, is professor of public affairs in the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. Previously a member of the social science faculties of MIT and Stanford University, he is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has published over 150 articles in the social science literature and is especially interested in biosociology; research methods; and in controversies over science, technology, and the environment. Among his books are Biosociology of Dominance & Deference, True Warnings and False Alarms about Technology, 1948-1971, and Global Social Problems. His new book is Implausible Beliefs: In the Bible, Astrology, and UFOs.

In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Allan Mazur discusses his interest in skepticism, and lists various criteria for disbelief, defending “closed-mindedness” about various implausibilities. He explores similarities in the credulity throughout the United States versus Europe and Asia. He details the implausibility of various beliefs about the inerrancy of the Bible, UFOs, and astrology, and explains how there is nothing unique about religious beliefs that make them more implausible than other unsupportable claims. He examines the origins of implausible beliefs, including social influence, and how one’s social milieu may be a stronger factor in determining one’s beliefs than evidence or one’s education. He also examines personality characteristics and emotional comfort that certain implausible beliefs may bring the believer as further explanations for the roots of implausible beliefs.

http://www.pointofinquiry.net

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Posted: 08 August 2008 05:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I just started listening, but I thought I would post Allan’s piece that was in the Skeptical Inquirer - Bible Stories, which is the subject briefly talked about at the beginning of the conversation about the inconsistent versions of creation in Genesis.

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Posted: 10 August 2008 09:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I l iked this interview alot - he sounds way different than he looks too lol - but he was pretty reasonable and I loved how “strident” he was-  I loved how he basically said that evolution and the bible are not compatible AT ALL - and if you think they are then you have to conclude the bible is just “not a science book” -

here is a great paper he wrote http://cepa.maxwell.syr.edu/papers/95.html a few yrs ago about avian flu and global warming

great podcast-

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Posted: 10 August 2008 09:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I thought this was one of the best podcasts I’ve heard in a while.  Mazur didn’t try to be Mr. Personality, but was calm, rational, and honest in his views.  He appeared to be quite careful in what he stated as fact and was equally careful about the conclusions he drew from those facts.  I’d rather have more of this type of person than the flashier sort.

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Posted: 19 September 2008 03:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I would just like to briefly point out a few inconsistencies in the logic and critical thinking of Allan Mazur. He speaks about the logical inconsistency in Genesis in the bible (technically internal inconsistency but we will not quibble on technicalities here) but then he goes on to state “The bible is probably a reasonable historical account of the kings of Israel” Not true – if the good professor knew anything about the history or archaeology of the area (and of the period in question) he would know this to be a false assertion The biblical “history” in no way matches human history at all. This points out the danger of allowing people with minimal expertise to pronounce on things they know nothing about and this does grave harm to the cause of rational and critical thinking and the advancement of science.

Further, when broaching the subject of UFOs, Mazur immediately states it is “comparable to a belief in perpetual motion” and goes on to cite the second law of thermodynamics. Of course this has absolutely nothing to do with UFOs. It is neither a logical or critically thought out argument against UFOs – it is a distraction only the gullible would fall for. However, Mazur does manage to bring himself back into focus. It seems the professor does not deny the possibility of alien (extraterrestrial) life (and in mentioning this he reveals his gullibility in buying into the “UFOs are aliens” paradigm) and his main objection then seems to be “the problem of getting from here to there”. In this he buys into the obvious fallacy that he knows everything there is to know about the way physics operates in the universe – he has in essence proclaimed himself the God of Physics and also proclaimed that physics is now a Dead Science with no advancements now possible. It is perhaps salutary to remember that before the Wright brothers it was impossible for man to fly. After, it was then impossible to fly faster than the speed of sound. Then it was that the speed of light is a constant. All these things have proved false in the fullness of time.

In today’s society we seem to have a growing problem – it is people who have qualifications or expertise in one area thinking that they are then automatically qualified to speak on other areas. Allan Mazur is purportedly a public relations expert, how then does he think he is then qualified to speak about science and logic – especially when it is patently obvious he is out of his depth? These are subjects that people spend years studying at the highest level and then spend a commensurate time in practical application before they can consider themselves to be experts. What then gives a public relations practitioner the arrogance to suppose he is qualified outside his own field of expertise? This is a huge problem for the sceptical movement and poses grave dangers for the promotion of critical thinking and the public advancement of logic and the scientific rationale.

It seems Point of Enquiry has become particularly dogmatic and close minded when it comes to so called paranormal or otherwise anomalous phenomena. To deny that there are unexplained or even inexplicable phenomena is to arrogantly assume the ultimate knowledge of a god. This is sheer bloody minded arrogance. Those who study paranormal phenomena wish that the actions of the “debunkers” would match their rhetoric. None of the “debunkers” (eg: Mazur and Nickell) ever actually examine the evidence in full at all. This bears repeating: They never examine the evidence! Rather, what they are interested in is selectively choosing only information that supports their own flawed misconceptions of reality – often buying into the fraudsters and the hoaxers own misconceptions in the process. This is not science. This is not the practice of open minded critical thinkers. This is merely the actions of fearfully closed minds.

It is imperative for Point of Enquiry to allow an open, critical and free examination of all the evidence. Interviewing speakers such as Mazar and Nickell, who are clearly not experts in the fields they speak about, and who clearly never examine the evidence in full at all, do more damage and turn people away from critical thinking and scientific thought than all the fraudsters and hoaxers combined.

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Posted: 19 September 2008 04:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Hi Rramjet,

I like this passage in Susan Blackmores article:

Another “psychic” turns up. I must devise more experiments, take these claims seriously. They fail - again. A man explains to me how alien abductors implanted something in his mouth. Tests show it’s just a filling, but it might have been…

How should one check the evidence in full, as you call it? It is time the other side comes with real evidence. Blackmore tried half a lifetime, she was a real ‘believer’. Why did not anybody earn Randi’s million?

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Posted: 19 September 2008 04:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Rramjet - 19 September 2008 03:14 AM

It seems Point of Enquiry has become particularly dogmatic and close minded when it comes to so called paranormal or otherwise anomalous phenomena. To deny that there are unexplained or even inexplicable phenomena is to arrogantly assume the ultimate knowledge of a god. This is sheer bloody minded arrogance. Those who study paranormal phenomena wish that the actions of the “debunkers” would match their rhetoric. None of the “debunkers” (eg: Mazur and Nickell) ever actually examine the evidence in full at all. This bears repeating: They never examine the evidence! Rather, what they are interested in is selectively choosing only information that supports their own flawed misconceptions of reality – often buying into the fraudsters and the hoaxers own misconceptions in the process. This is not science. This is not the practice of open minded critical thinkers. This is merely the actions of fearfully closed minds.

It is imperative for Point of Enquiry to allow an open, critical and free examination of all the evidence. Interviewing speakers such as Mazar and Nickell, who are clearly not experts in the fields they speak about, and who clearly never examine the evidence in full at all, do more damage and turn people away from critical thinking and scientific thought than all the fraudsters and hoaxers combined.

(1) Which “evidence” are you talking about?

(2) Nobody denies that there are unexplained phenomena. Indeed, that is a completely banal and indeed necessarily true claim. The difference here is that many of the phenomena under question have been explained.

(3) To claim that a phenomenon is “inexplicable” would require the “ultimate knowledge of a god” that you yourself decry. It would be to claim that there is no possible explanation for that phenomenon. How could anyone ever know such a thing unless they were somehow party to every possible explanation?

So it seems to me what you have written here is very confused, Rramjet.

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Posted: 19 September 2008 10:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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No-one earned Randi’s million because the terms of the “earning” were, as Randi knows full well, that nothing can ever be conclusively proved either true or false – there will always remain theoretical grounds on which to dispute any finding – unfortunately this applies to what we might also call scientific knowledge. Nothing can ever be conclusively proved true or false - thus no million.

The evidence I am talking about is the manifestation of paranormal phenomena itself – highly qualified observers observe phenomena that they cannot explain - I do understand that much can be explained in prosaic terms but we are also left with much that is not so easily explicable. It is these inexplicable cases that I am interested in. Unfortunately for rational enquiry it is the prosaic, explicable cases that Mazur et al. are interested in. They should attempt to describe some of the intriguing cases – as I have mentioned elsewhere – The UK. Rendlesham Forest Woodbridge/Bentwaters case would be a good beginning.

I claim “inexplicable” only in terms of our present knowledge. I do not claim there will never be a possible explanation. There is no mutual exclusivity in my statements – thus they are not confused. It is a relevant point that when someone claims that it is impossible to travel interstellar space they are indeed declaring physics dead and thereby pretending to godlike knowledge of possible futures.

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Posted: 19 September 2008 10:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Rramjet - 19 September 2008 10:25 AM

No-one earned Randi’s million because the terms of the “earning” were, as Randi knows full well, that nothing can ever be conclusively proved either true or false – there will always remain theoretical grounds on which to dispute any finding – unfortunately this applies to what we might also call scientific knowledge. Nothing can ever be conclusively proved true or false - thus no million.

This is an inaccurate account of Randi’s methodology. When any test is begun, both Randi and the testee have to agree to a list of objectives which the testee is supposed to perform. E.g., to find which one of four pipes have water flowing through it by using a dowsing rod. As I understand it, they also typically agree to an impartial observer who will decide whether or not the objectives have been met.

There have been many tests done under these conditions, and none of them have ever been successful.

As for science and “scientific knowledge”, nobody has ever claimed that science provides logical or literally certain proof of its claims. That would be a straw man argument. Any knowledge derived from the scientific method is defeasible in the lights of further study. However this is not to say that therefore science doesn’t provide knowledge or evidence.

To take an everyday example: I claim to know where I am living right now, and who is President of the United States. When I claim this knowledge, I am clearly using the natural, everyday meaning of the word “to know”. I am not claiming that I am literally incapable of error on these things. Perhaps I am dreaming or under the influence of some drug. What science does is to provide good reason and evidence to accept its claims, and its claims are potentially as true and knowable as that I live in New York and that the current President of the United States is GW Bush.

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Posted: 19 September 2008 10:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Rramjet - 19 September 2008 03:14 AM

I would just like to briefly point out a few inconsistencies in the logic and critical thinking of Allan Mazur.

I think you’re misreading the nature of his statements.  While he may have said that “bible is probably a reasonable historical account of the kings of Israel”, I don’t gather that he was expressing an opinion that this is so, but was allowing for the possibility, while denying the Bible as a source of knowledge outside what a writer of that time would know.

Likewise, he didn’t make any claim that the Second Law of Thermodynamics was related to UFO’s, but only that the believers in each share some characteristics.  As for UFOs being alien, I bet most believers in UFOs expect them to be of alien origin.

BTW, I am unfamiliar with any evidence that the speed of light is not constant.  Could you enlighten me?

Overall, I gather you’re peeved with Mazur for expressing disdain for views that you hold, perhaps in parapsychology.  If so, his disdain is shared by the bulk of the scientific community.  According to his bio, he has a BS in Physics, a MS in Engineering, and a PhD in Sociology.  That’s a reasonable background to comment on the things he commented on.

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Posted: 20 September 2008 07:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Doug - Actually Randi is withdrawing his million dollar offer – so the argument will soon be moot. As to why no-one claimed it I point you to an interesting article:
http://www.dailygrail.com/features/the-myth-of-james-randis-million-dollar-challenge That being said, I am not going to die in the ditch about Randi’s “reward”. I f no-one has claimed it, I am willing to concede that no-one has demonstrated to Randi sufficient Psi power. I will say that this of course proves nothing.

But Doug, if you use your “natural” understanding of what it is “to know” then you immediately let into legitimacy all those people who claim to have seen ghosts and UFOs and bigfoot and “Nessie” because they “know” that these things exist in exactly the same manner as you “know” you live in New York – simply because you “experience” living in New York – all you normal (day-to-day) senses tell you that you live in New York – yet if you questioned a UFO or ghost spotter I guarantee that he/she will inform you that all their natural senses lead them to believe they saw an alien or a ghost – simply they experienced the phenomena in exactly the same way you experience (and thus know) New York. I am sure this is an outcome that you would not want to countenance. As a skeptic you would want to apply stricter criterion to what we might count as knowledge. Certainly science can provide us with this, but you must understand how it does this before you (meaning the more general “anyone”) are qualified to speak on the topic (again my point about then propensity of so called skeptics such as Randi, Nickell, Mazur, Radford, et al. to pronounce on topics they have neither investigated nor fully understood).

I am not your enemy here Doug. I am trying my damnest to make you much more rigorous in your thought processes and approach to the topic of belief systems - and what it takes for us to claim knowledge. I may not be the world’s best communicator – in fact some find my style much too belligerent – but I beg you to see past this and to get my message. So where does that leave us. It leaves us with you needing to understand the history, philosophy and methodology of science a little more precisely – as I have previously suggested, A F Chalmers excellent book on this topic (What Is This Thing Called Science: An Assessment of the Nature and Status of Science and Its Methods) is as good an entry level text on this subject as you are likely to find.
Please, I am trying to MAKE you a better skeptic. Read the book. You will understand why I seem to have the galling arrogance to state these things to you. But when you have read the book, perhaps you will understand.

Taylor – it IS precisely that Mazur stated that the bible is probably accurate in historical terms that I have a problem. This displays a clear lack of rigour in his critical thinking. It is like conceding that goblins exist in an effort to get people to believe that fairies at the bottom of the garden do not exist. It is precisely this type of loose thinking that is the cause of so much trouble the public seems to have in sorting fact from fiction. When alleged “experts” pronounce one truthfull thing and then immediately allow a falsehood on exactly the same subject confusion always remains and no-one except the anti-rationalists win. This is a HUGE problem with Randi, Nickell, Mazur Radford et al. They ALL fall prey to such loose thinking.

You “bet” most “believers” think UFOs are alien? You don’t know? How then can you pronounce at all on the topic if you have not gathered the evidence. Again, LOOSE THINKING is the BANE of our existence and push for a rationally understood world.

I will indeed get you the reference to the inconstancy of the speed of light. If my memory serves me - a group from the University of Queensland have found they can trap light in a crystal…that is, virtually slowing its “speed” to zero. Another group in the US have recently replicated it. Please don’t quote me on the details until I provide the reference which I will get you ASAP (I am on a laptop at a mates place right now and the reference is on my PC at home – within 24 hours I will have it for you).

I am NOT peeved at Mazur for expressing “disdain” as you call it for all things paranormal (or parapsychological). I have no vested interest in the paranormal at all. The only interest I have is in critical thinking. Clear, rational, scientifically based thought processes that can lead us to investigate and discover knowledge of the nature universe we live in. I abhor closed minded people, dogmatists who abandon the rules of science in order to score points against a perceived opposition – and I see this in spades in Randi et al.

Again “shared by the bulk of the scientific community”? Do you KNOW this to be true? Wild and possibly inaccurate generalisations such as these do not help at all. THIS is what Randi et al. excel in. Such pronouncements without evidence are extremely damaging to the rationalist (and by corollary, sceptical) cause.

I agree. Mazur has some educational qualifications, but if so why then does he not apply critical thinking and evidentiary procedure to his work on the paranormal – instead resorting to sweeping, unsubstantiated generalisations?

I challenge anyone to critically examine the direct evidence in the Rendlesham Forest Woodbridge?Bentwater case. Will you do it? I would bet money that Randi et al most certainly will not. I could list many other cases of “so-called” paranormal manifestations, but unless we can get past at least ONE intriguing case, what hope of ever examining others?

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Posted: 20 September 2008 08:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Rramjet, just so we are clear, I do have a Ph.D. in philosophy and have taken many courses in contemporary philosophy of science, including at the graduate level. If you think that Chalmers’s approach helps you to make your arguments, you will have to explain precisely how and why.

The point at issue here is not so much philosophy of science as epistemology. I have no doubt that some of the people who claim experience of UFOs or supernatural phenomena believe that they saw an alien, ghost, or what-not. However, personal belief is not the end of epistemology. Far from it.

When I see a straw standing in a glass of water, it looks bent to me, due to the refraction of light through the liquid. But I do not believe it is bent, because I have seen this before, and when I draw the straw out of the water it remains straight. Now, I could make up some theory that straws bend when put in water and then straighten when removed, but that sort of claim beggars belief, particularly given that the particular bend I see in the straw changes as I move around the water.

Similarly, some people claim to see odd things. But we also know well that the brain is very susceptible to visual and auditory trickery; we know that hallucinations can occur; we know that some people are prone to active fantasy lives; we know that some people look for fame and fortune by spinning off extraordinary stories to the media. So when someone makes an odd claim to us (like being abducted by aliens) we want more proof than someone’s say-so. Perhaps they believe their own say-so, perhaps not. But the epistemological question is whether we should. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” And first-person stories do not provide extraordinary evidence unless they are also corroborated by something more objective.

(NB: I do not need extraordinary evidence to believe that when someone says they are in Chicago, they are in Chicago, assuming I have no evidence that would defeat that claim).

This is the point of science; its controls, statistical analyses, and the whole rigmarole of a good experimental setup. It is designed to remove the opinion of the person making the test. This is why drug experiments are run double-blind; so that nobody knows which is the purported drug, and which is the placebo. Had they known, doctors involved in the test could (even subconsciously) skew the results by deciding that certain patients looked healthier than they really were, etc.

The point of any competent epistemology is not to come up with absolute proof of anything. (As you have suggested more than once). It is to come up with sufficient reasons to believe. We want to know where the preponderance of the evidence lies, not where individual opinions lie. Randi’s tests over several decades give very good evidence that no such things as psi-powers exist. After all, the tests were open to all, many who claimed these powers went and did the tests, and they all failed. This shows how easy it is to deceive oneself. Does this absolutely prove that psi-powers don’t exist? No, of course not. But as I’ve just said, any competent epistemology isn’t after absolute proof. It is after good reasons to believe. That is all that science ever can give us, and that is enough for “knowledge” in the everyday sense of the word.

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Posted: 20 September 2008 08:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Rramjet - 20 September 2008 07:56 AM

it IS precisely that Mazur stated that the bible is probably accurate in historical terms that I have a problem. This displays a clear lack of rigour in his critical thinking.

I think you’re hearing what you want to hear.  This is what Mazur said:

I am not an expert on the Bible…You might find many things in the Bible that are reasonable to believe, for example,
when we get to the historical treatment of ancient Israel from the kings onward, it probably is a reasonably good account of what really happened.

He is clearly not making a claim here.

You “bet” most “believers” think UFOs are alien? You don’t know? How then can you pronounce at all on the topic if you have not gathered the evidence. Again, LOOSE THINKING

This isn’t loose thinking, it probabilistic thinking based on random sampling.  You seem to be a epistomological nihilist.  Regardless, it’s not important to the argument.

I will indeed get you the reference to the inconstancy of the speed of light.

Unnecessary. It is well known that the speed of light isn’t constant in various substances. The speed of light is a constant in a vacuum.  I just wanted to ensure you weren’t claiming that the speed of light changed to the degree that the stars were within 6,000 light years, know what I mean?

I abhor closed minded people, dogmatists who abandon the rules of science in order to score points against a perceived opposition – and I see this in spades in Randi et al.

No, you really don’t.  All they ask is “where is the evidence.”  It’s never supplied.  Yes, I’m sure they expect it to never materialize, but they would find it tough to argue against non-random results of carefully controlled experiments.  Rather, it’s the proponents of these psuedo sciences who maintain the phenomona exist in spite of their inability to achieve non-random results.  That’s irrational.

Again “shared by the bulk of the scientific community”? Do you KNOW this to be true?

Yes, I do.

I challenge anyone to critically examine the direct evidence in the Rendlesham Forest Woodbridge?Bentwater case. Will you do it?

On the face of it, I find it unreasonable that aliens trying to be secretive will fly around in glowing spaceships.  Although I would *love* to believe that aliens are visiting earth, the more plausible explanation is that human beings are susceptible to a great number of observational and cognitive errors that make their reports unreliable.  These characteristics are well-demonstrated, while the existence of aliens is not.  Occam’s razor.

I also find it ironic that you criticize the rigor and objectivity of real scientists, yet place great credibility in these amateur witnesses under unfavorable conditions.  Your passion for the subject is greater than that of those who disbelieve it, which is something that lends itself to greater bias.  LOOSE thinking.  grin

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Posted: 20 September 2008 11:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Doug – you make some very clear and legitimate points. This is gratifying to note. And yes you are correct, it is epistemology that we are now arguing about.

I would like to take you up on two points. The first concerning “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” and the second concerns Randi’s “tests”.

In fact the two are linked. A thought experiment. What would happen if someone actually claimed Randi’s million. Would that constitute proof that psi existed? No – it would of course be claimed that Randi was somehow duped, or that his methodology was flawed, or that a sample size of one does not constitute proof, replication would be required, and so on… in fact it would prove nothing at all if the million was claimed. In that sense Randi’s million is not such a big deal at all and neither is the fact that no-one has claimed it. For example, does any science investigation set out a priori to demand significance at the p>0.000001 level. No, but Randi does (http://www.skepticalinvestigations.org/exam/Dace_amazing3.htm).

Let us now turn to pure science. What store do we place in the psi-ganzfeld studies? Here was a “straight” science study into psi effects that returned positive results. Still, it is argued about and not accepted. Why? This is where the Chalmers approach can provide us with the answer. (trivially) It has not proved to be a fruitful line of investigation – no great insights into nature have sprung from it. The rub is, that although according to the research psi effects may very well exist in nature, they are ignored by the mainstream “as if they did not exist” at all.  In other words, mainstream science gets on very well thank you without having to account for psi effects. Unfortunately, to a great many skeptics, this “ignorance” by the mainstream is taken to indicate that psi effects DO NOT exist – a very different concept indeed. This is why (merely one of many reasons) I recommend Chalmers and why I despair of the critical thinking capacity of many skeptics.

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”? Ok. Another thought experiment. I see a UFO. Not enough you say. What if a friend saw it with me? Not enough. What if a thousand people saw it and what if it was tracked simultaneously on both civilian and military radar and what if the military became so worried that they scrambled fighter jets to investigate and all the pilots of those jets made visual and radar contact with the UFO before it simply outran them and disappeared into space? Enough evidence yet?  What if the French government then gathered a team of it’s best civilian and military scientific minds to investigate and write a report on the subject and then they released the report publicly and concluded that something very real was happening but that no current explanation was possible? What if the US government had already conducted its own investigations (coincidentally called them names like Project Blue Book, and Sign and Grudge and the Condon Report) and all of these studies came to similar conclusions that there was a very real phenomenon occurring. Similar investigations occur in the UK (although their report states that whatever is occurring is no security threat so can be safely ignored). Similarly the government of Brazil releases its military UFO data indicating very real phenomena. How extraordinary does evidence have to be? Again we must return to Chalmers. (again trivially) – reality does not confer fruitfulness – nothing fruitful has come from the reality of the phenomenon we call UFOs – so it is merely ignored by mainstream science because mainstream science does not need UFOs to explain anything (unless of course you want to explain UFOs – and then you are in extreme circular trouble). Again, some skeptics take this to mean that UFOs do not exist.  I contend the evidence is extraordinary – but it still gets us nowhere.

TAYLOR – “when we get to the historical treatment of ancient Israel from the kings onward, it probably is a reasonably good account of what really happened” is NOT a claim? Clearly I do not understand what a claim is then.

“This isn’t loose thinking, it probabilistic thinking based on random sampling.”

Oh really? What are the probabilistic criteria you applied and what was the size and nature of your random sample? 

“You seem to be a epistomological nihilist.”

No, I agree with Doug, we merely need sufficient reasons for belief.

“All they ask is “where is the evidence.” It’s never supplied.  Yes, I’m sure they expect it to never materialize, but they would find it tough to argue against non-random results of carefully controlled experiments.  Rather, it’s the proponents of these psuedo sciences who maintain the phenomona exist in spite of their inability to achieve non-random results.  That’s irrational.”
See above incorporated reply to Doug

Ahh Taylor… you have bought into the hoaxers and the fraudsters claim that UFOs are alien spaceships. I do not – and never have – made such a claim. I did at one stage indicate that there is a hypothesis that UFOs are indeed extraterrestrial craft and that this might have supporting evidence – but nowhere have I associated myself with such a claim and nor I believe should any critically minded skeptic (except if they were to set up a rigorous scientific experiment to test the hypothesis – which I believe would be impossible to do). I therefore have some difficulty when you state “On the face of it, I find it unreasonable that aliens trying to be secretive will fly around in glowing spaceships.” as if I have somehow claimed that to be my position. Also, what IS so “unreasonable” about it? You must have evidential grounds for this claim aside from a mere unsubstantiated belief?
(continued next post)

[ Edited: 20 September 2008 12:07 PM by Rramjet ]
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Posted: 20 September 2008 11:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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(contiued from previous post)

Yes human perception is fallible. It is merely the degree to which it is so that we must now argue. I contend that thousands of highly qualified (stress highly and qualified) witnesses reporting exactly the same phenomena constitutes evidence that “something” is occurring – just what I have no idea. So can we get away from aliens please? This is a blind and unsubstantiated alley.

Passion should not be mistaken for credulity. My passion is for critical thinking. It is not for or against a belief in anything at all. It is knowledge that I seek and talk of ghosts, aliens, werewolves, vampires, goblins, fairies, and so on clouds knowledge and plays directly into the hands of the anti-rationalists, fraudsters and hoaxers.. These terms are merely labels invented by people because their minds abhor a vacuum and they psychologically need to label things they don’t understand. I have no such need – or at least – have the presence of mind to realise that these labels are essentially useless in the advancement of knowledge unless they take the form of testable hypotheses – which I believe, according to our current state of knowledge – they most assuredly do not.

To quote a great bard: other than the one who penned “There are more things in heaven and earth…” “Something’s happening, but you don’t know what it is, do you Mrs Jones”

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Posted: 20 September 2008 12:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Rramjet - 20 September 2008 11:58 AM

(contiued from previous post). My passion is for critical thinking.

No, I don’t think it is.  You use that justification to attack those who don’t endorse your own beliefs, but you dispense with that “passion” when justifying your own.

For instance, you commit just what you accuse Ben Radford of…..hearing a couple sentences and assuming you know everything there is to know about his investigation.  In fact, your whole post draws sweeping generalizations about Ben’s investigative methods, which you could have no knowledge of based on that one podcast.  Ben was much more polite and respectful to you than you were to him, which certainly reflects well on him.

So I don’t accept that you have a higher level of rationality than those you criticize.  And you clearly have an axe to grind regarding paranormal abilities.

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