Extreme Skeptics™ »« In Dublin city centre

So far, this is just gossip

PZ has a post on this fun new trick of saying “I am Skeptic, I don’t just believe your claim just like that, I wasn’t born yesterday, I demand evidence for all claims” whenever there’s a woman muttering something about harassment. He does it with a short one-act play about a visit to SkepticDoc, M.D.

PZ: Doctor, lately I’ve been experiencing shortness of breath and an ache in my left shoulder when I exert myself…

SkepticDoc: Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down! See the name on the shingle? It’s SkepticDoc. Do you have anything other than your feelings to justify wasting my time here?

PZ: What? I’m telling you my symptoms…

SkepticDoc: Yeah, yeah, your feelings. Do you have some physical evidence that you felt pain? Some independent corroboration that you felt this remarkable “ache”? So far, this is just gossip.

Sound familiar? Yeah. All too god damn familiar.

Let’s live like that, shall we? Whenever a friend is unhappy about something – demand evidence of the unhappiness! Then demand an airtight logical argument for the unhappiness. Then give a lecture on how to develop a backbone and (use a lot of anger in the voice and facial expression here) personal responsibility. Then ask for money.

 

Comments

  1. says

    But clearly they don’t! Brian Dalton wasn’t equally skeptical of all claims: he rejected the rape claim, and actively supported Shermer’s claim that he did everything that was claimed but that it magically wasn’t rape because Shermer has a book deal and can boost Dalton’s career. They’re both clearly the best people who ever lived, and the folks who stuck their necks out must be terrible because they’re vulnerable. Because REASONS, and also because Dalton and Shermer and their supporters are sociopathic scumbags who enjoy enough privilege to subject themselves on the rest of us.***

    *** Allegedly. I don’t have enough proof to convict. Maybe Dalton, Shermer, or other “alleged” rapist shitholes wanna try to sue me. I’m worth about $200, so they’re welcome to take a swing at it.

  2. skephtic says

    I find the claim against Shermer to be plausible, but I certainly don’t know if it is true or not. I think it is only correct that I note that, and that I support finding out more and holding people accountable for what they have done. I think that it would be incorrect to claim my position as hyper-skepticism, no more so that it is hyper-skepticism for our justice system to presume innocence until guilt is proven–and, yes, I know that this isn’t a court of law, so I’m not saying that one must prove Shermer guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to think he may be a scum ball, rather I’m rejecting a sort of over characterization of people as being pro-harrasment and hyper skeptical.

    On the other hand, PZ’s post where he argues with an imaginary Skep doc is a straw argument–making up an imaginary opponent rather than directing his arguments against actual statements.

  3. skephtic says

    (And, yes, I also think some people are anti-woman, jerks who will never recognize that women are actually harassed…my reserving judgement on Shermer is not a belief that he is innocent, either.)

  4. says

    @ 2 – you’re mixing a lot of things together there, which obscures more than it enlightens.

    Of course you don’t know if it’s true or not; neither do I. PZ made that clear in his post – it’s an account by someone else. Obviously nobody other than the source can know if it’s true. Then again nobody knows people are guilty even when a jury finds them guilty. Knowing is rare.

    Saying you don’t know isn’t hyperskepticism, and I haven’t seen anyone say it is. The issue isn’t saying “I don’t know it’s true.” Brian Dalton, for instance, said other things.

    I, for one, am not characterizing people as pro-harrasment and hyper skeptical because they say they don’t know. I don’t think PZ is either, in fact I’m pretty sure he’s not.

    No, PZ’s post is not a straw argument, it’s a reductio ad absurdum.

  5. carlie says

    On the other hand, PZ’s post where he argues with an imaginary Skep doc is a straw argument–making up an imaginary opponent rather than directing his arguments against actual statements.

    I think that more accurately describes what Dalton did in his video.

  6. skephtic says

    “Saying you don’t know isn’t hyperskepticism, and I haven’t seen anyone say it is. The issue isn’t saying “I don’t know it’s true.” “

    I do think PZ, intentionally or not, is saying that. Here he takes issue with what should be an uncontroversial statement which is, as best I can see, true. A claim isn’t evidence, in and of itself.

    “All claims require evidence, whether they are extraordinary or not. And a claim, in and of itself, is not, by definition, evidence.

    Some other derpwad on the internet”

    I don’t know what it is, but some skeptics have adopted this calcified attitude towards what constitutes reasonable evidence and reasonable claims. It seems to me that these are nothing but excuses contrived to justify denying reality, and that they are actually toxic to any kind of functional, societally useful version of skepticism; this is the skepticism of the status quo.

    I do think hyper-skepticism is a real thing. I think the question is not if it exists, but where the line is, and that PZ is trying to move the line to “presume harassment claims are the full and correct reality in all cases”, which I think is an over-reach, even as I think that the harasser at CFI, for example, needs to be fired immediately if the credible and detailed claims against him are true.

    “No, PZ’s post is not a straw argument, it’s a reduction ad absurdum.”

    I think it’s an attempt at the latter, but by putting words Hall didn’t say into her mouth makes it a straw argument.

  7. John Morales says

    skephtic:

    I do think hyper-skepticism is a real thing. I think the question is not if it exists, but where the line is, and that PZ is trying to move the line to “presume harassment claims are the full and correct reality in all cases”, which I think is an over-reach

    What he actually wrote and you quoted was “some skeptics have adopted this calcified attitude towards what constitutes reasonable evidence and reasonable claims”. In this case the reasonable claim he made is that he found both the testimony given him (and its motivation) credible enough to make it public.

    If you want to think it’s more reasonable to believe that PZ is lying about that claim, fair enough.

    (I think you’d be wrong)

    I think it’s an attempt at the latter, but by putting words Hall didn’t say into her mouth makes it a straw argument.

    It was a parabolic parallel mode.

  8. skephtic says

    “If you want to think it’s more reasonable to believe that PZ is lying about that claim, fair enough.

    (I think you’d be wrong)”

    Nice attempt at framing, John Morales, where you attempt to equate reserving judgement with calling PZ a liar. That is a false dilemma.

  9. Al Dente says

    PZ was giving an analogy where he showed that hyperskepticism is not skeptical at all. It’s actually denialism. We see it all the time with the climate change denialists. Anthony Watts said he’d accept whatever Richard Muller said was happening. When Muller determined that climate change was happening and provided large amounts of evidence to support the conclusion, Watts decided his ideology was more important than reality and his word.

    In a similar way, the rape apologists are being denialists about the claims of Shermer’s behavior. That was the purpose of PZ’s analogy.

  10. Stevarious, Public Health Problem says

    He forgot these last lines:

    SkepticDoc: So how long do you think you’ve been having these ‘feelings’?
    PZ: Oh, about a year.
    SkepticDoc: You expect me to believe that you have these pains but you waited a year to report it? Bullshit. Get out of my office.

  11. Al Dente says

    Someone who says “I reserve judgement” is really saying “I don’t believe the accusations.”

    Why is it that anyone with skeptic as part of their nym is actually a rape apologist? And yes, skephtic, I mean you.

  12. John Morales says

    skephtic:

    [1] Nice attempt at framing, John Morales, where you attempt to equate reserving judgement with calling PZ a liar. [2] That is a false dilemma.

    1. It’s not framing, it’s being literal.

    Do you dispute that the claim he made is that he found both the testimony given him (and its motivation) credible enough to make it public?

    2. What? I advanced no dilemma, false or otherwise.

  13. iknklast says

    skephtic – PZ was not quoting Harriet Hall. He simply used the phrase SkepticDoc. Harriet Hall is known as SkepDoc. I suspect PZ deliberately used the full Skeptic in front of Doc so that he wouldn’t be mistaken for assuming this was Harriet Hall. You made that mistake anyway. This is totally not about Dr. Hall, and he did not put any words in her mouth. He created an imaginary, non-existent doctor. I am quite certain Dr. Hall would never respond in that manner, and I doubt that PZ would suggest she would. However, I do not wish to claim to be able to read PZs mind, so if you think he is misquoting Dr. Harriet Hall, you should stop by and ask him.

  14. kittehserf says

    skephtic, would you “reserve judgement” or say “I don’t know if there was a rape or not” if someone told you they’d been raped? Would you in effect call them a liar to their face? This isn’t about you or anyone else having first-hand eyewitness knowledge, it’s about believing a person when they tell you something was done to them. Do you default to disbelief when someone tells you they were mugged? Or burgled? Or that they missed their train? Or any other NOT EXTRAORDINARY claims? Because rape is not extraordinary. It’s all too common and is vastly under-reported … yet somehow it’s the crime (which just happens to be a crime overwhelmingly commited by men, against women) which gets the “she’s lying” default. Even if it’s grudgingly accepted that something happened, she must have asked for it, amirite?

    Weasel-word all you like, but in doing so you side with the rape apologists and rapists, whether you intend to or not.

  15. skephtic says

    ” Al Dente

    August 18, 2013 at 7:32 pm (UTC -7) Link to this comment

    Someone who says “I reserve judgement” is really saying “I don’t believe the accusations.”

    Why is it that anyone with skeptic as part of their nym is actually a rape apologist? And yes, skephtic, I mean you.”

    Nice Ad Hominem/Straw argument. I’m almost speechless at the vacuous maliciousness of such an argument. I’m in favor of prosecuting rapists. I’m in favor, for instance, in repealing the appalling practice of letting US military base commanders having final say in whether accused rapists get prosecuted. But I reject the ridiculous notion that skeptics must presume all averments to be true.

  16. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    skephtic wrote:

    I’m almost speechless at the vacuous maliciousness of such an argument.

    Pity about the ‘almost'; if you’re going to toss word salads that unpalatable our way then at least have the decency to add some ranch dressing*.

    *HT to Spokesgay.

  17. believerskeptic says

    even as I think that the harasser at CFI, for example, needs to be fired immediately if the credible and detailed claims against him are true.

    He was already found guilty by CFI itself. The problem is that there is no evident punishment. There are some claims that he was suspended while on vacation; CFI denies that but will not be forthcoming about what his actual punishment was. And yes, he still works for CFI, while it remains unlikely that the woman he harassed will ever work for CFI again. Is that justice?

    Why is it that anyone with skeptic as part of their nym is actually a rape apologist? And yes, skephtic, I mean you.

    Not me! It’s the name of my co-owned podcast, “Believer and Skeptic Show.”

  18. says

    PZ is trying to move the line to “presume harassment claims are the full and correct reality in all cases”

    No, I don’t think so. What I think he is saying, and what I and many others are saying, is that it would be nice if people would evaluate the likelihood of a claim of rape happening more in line with the available evidence, which tells us that the likelihood that the claim is true is somewhere between 90% and 98%. The hyperskeptics seem to be deliberately twisting this to mean that we want all rape claims to be automagically regarded as true 100% of the time. Perhaps this is because they realize on some level that withholding judgment on a claim that has >90% probability of being true is not, in reality, very skeptical, and could be regarded as extremely douchey and possibly even rapist-enabling, depending on how this unwillingness to believe in a >90% likelihood claim is expressed.

  19. pneumo says

    Hey, I rewrote Dr Strangelove for you.

    General Jack D. Ripper: I can assure you it has not recurred, Mandrake. Women uh… women sense my power and they seek my judgement. I, uh… I do not avoid women, Mandrake.
    Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: No.
    General Jack D. Ripper: But I… I do deny them my judgement.

  20. Silentbob says

    @ 19 SallyStrange

    … what I and many others are saying, is that it would be nice if people would evaluate the likelihood of a claim of rape happening more in line with the available evidence, which tells us that the likelihood that the claim is true is somewhere between 90% and 98%.

    Sorry, but such “statistical” arguments are bogus.

    One could equally argue that according to Meet The Predators

    The vast majority of the offenses are being committed by a relatively small group of men, somewhere between 4% and 8% of the population, who do it again… and again… and again.

    … the statistical likelihood of MS not being a serial rapist is 92 – 96%.

    Convinced? No, I didn’t think so.

    Statistics of large groups can tell you next to nothing about specific cases.

  21. Bozjemoj says

    @Silentbob

    False equivalency. The probability of a likely true claim being true is not prevaricated on the probability that any given person is the perpetrator.

    Also, available statistics show that when the accused is named, the likelihood of a false accusation is even lower. Stranger rape is more prevalent among “legitimate” false reporting.

    But you did convince me that you are a staunch rape apologist and purveyor of the finest red herrings. So you know, you did put forth a convincing argument for something.

  22. rnilsson says

    @21: But does not the likelihood increase rather sharply once it is conditioned with the fact that it DID happen? (Not to my knowledge and speaking in general terms only. Also per @18 CFI apparently consider it highly likely to be true in the case under discussion above.)

    So, over 90% of men are not rapists. Of those who are, however, odds are high that they “erred” more than once and will do so again if opportunity arises. According to that study Ophelia recently linked to via yesmeansyes or wherever – sorry, didn’t bookmark it.

  23. says

    It occurs to me that the concept of hyperskepticism, as PZ defines it, potentially has a wider application: it accurately describes the way that marginalized people’s experiences are reflexively dismissed as non-credible in a variety of contexts.

    To offer an example from my own field, hyperskepticism is a pretty good descriptor of the way that asylum-seekers’ testimonies are disbelieved by immigration authorities. In the UK, at least, asylum-seekers are routinely disbelieved by the UKBA when they say that they were raped, or tortured (even if they have injuries consistent with the torture), or imprisoned, or beaten, or subjected to forced marriage or other human rights abuses. Or when they say that they are LGBT and fear homophobic or transphobic violence in their home countries. These aren’t extraordinary claims, and shouldn’t require extraordinary evidence: in many of these cases, the prevalence of human rights abuses in the country of origin is illustrated by plenty of country background information. And in theory the standard of proof is supposed to be a low one, lower even than the “balance of probabilities” standard used in civil cases. But the attitude is always “prove it!”, and unrealistic demands for corroborating evidence are regularly made. And any minor inconsistencies, even those more likely to be attributable to PTSD or language problems, are invariably seized on as an excuse to disbelieve an account.

    I think that’s very similar to, and indeed overlaps with, the hyperskepticism with which allegations of rape and sexual assault against powerful men are treated. In both cases the reflexive assumption, made by the people with power, is that marginalized people must be lying and can’t be trusted.

  24. deepak shetty says

    @skephtic
    Most of us don’t know if Shermer is “guilty” or not. However hyper skeptical side assumes a great many things . They believe one of the following
    a. PZ is lying. There is no woman and the entire story is made up. PZ has some personal score to settle with Shermer or needs blog hits or whatever. Why arent the good skeptics questioning this assumption? Why isn’t PZ innocent till proven guilty?
    b. The woman is lying. How can you reflexively make this argument as a skeptic?
    c. The woman is mistaken and it was all a misunderstanding . She gave consent but was drunk/didnt realise it or something And because she now regrets it, she accuses Shermer – Again no evidence for this either.

    It seems to me that a skeptic could at worst say (s)he doesn’t know what happened. (S)he cannot assume innocence or make excuses or deny the events. A skeptic cannot apply legal standards to his/her views – since it is demonstrably true that the law gets to the wrong conclusions some times.

  25. says

    the statistical likelihood of MS not being a serial rapist is 92 – 96%.

    Incorrect. The statistical likelihood of any random man not being a serial rapist is 92 – 96%. Now that Shermer has been accused by multiple accusers, well, the most generous thing we can say is that Shermer is more likely than the average random man who has never been accused to be a serial rapist.

    The thing you’re missing is that the presence of an accusation (remember, testimony of a person who experienced rape IS evidence) changes the calculation.

  26. says

    I’m really curious how many of the hyper-skeptics held claims of abuse within the catholic church to the same burden of proof to hold individuals to in the skeptic/atheist community.

    Seems like some people are fine with the fact that sexual assault sometimes leaves no evidence, when we are talking about a group we don’t like, but aren’t able to accept that fact within our own group.

  27. says

    @ Marnie 29

    Hey, false equivalency! They’re Catholics, they’re religious, which means that, duh, obviously they are far less intelligent and much more corrupt than rational, honest, open-minded atheists like us! Just look at the history of religion: inquisitions, witch hunts, terrorism.* And have you seen the statistics? Not only are atheists way smarter than theists, theists also make up like 99% of the prisoners in the US. Atheists aren’t criminals; that’s religious propaganda! Everyone knows the Catholics are kiddie-diddlers, not atheists! Think about it: did Tim Minchin ever write a song with the lyrics “fuck the atheists because they’re motherfucking rapists”?** No! Of course not! And you know that if the majority of the population isn’t making off-color jokes and singing songs about a problem, it’s probably just been invented and inflated by those Victim Feminists.

    Psh. Common sense, people! Just think about it logically. Why would atheists go around raping and harassing people? It’s not rational. But women think with their emotions and not logic–like Catholics–anyway, it’s just math, and if you plug in the numbers, knowing that 98% of men aren’t rapists and it’s much more likely that these women are in the 8% that make up false claims–probably trying to get these manginas (who just want skeptic pussy) to take care of them–because I found this online calculator that let me figure out Bayes Theorem. You can’t argue with math, people, even if it doesn’t give you the answer you want. Did you even read “Why Do People Believe Weird Things?” Remember the chapter on Witch Hunts? HELLO. Also, evolutionary psychology. QED.

    [Uh, is there a tag stronger than 'sarcasm'? 'Cause, insert that here, please. Kinda need to take a shower, now; I feel gross after writing that.***]

    *IME I’ve seen that lots of people who use this line of reasoning are the first ones to go absolutely batshit (understandably) when a theist tries to tar all atheists with the brush of Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot. Or they (again, justifiably) get angry when some Creationist tries to say that all of science, and scientists, are tainted and evil because what Nazi scientists did during the Holocaust. It’s a stupid argument either way you go.

    **Disclaimer: I love Tim Minchin! And that song! Just using it as an example! :)

    *** Sorry for losing it. Just, the last couple threads, plus the the shit over at PZ’s…I can’t take it anymore. Thank god for all you people fighting the good fight with logic, numbers, real stories, compassion, and truth. I’m just reduced to bitter sarcasm at this point.

  28. says

    The phrase “withhold judgement” is a tip-off that you’re dealing with someone who has an introductory level understanding of pyrrhonian skepticism, but little more than that. A more advanced understanding of pyrrhonian skepticism would be evidenced by the writer prefacing every potential claim of fact with a disclaimer relating to sensory input, because the pyrrhonist rejects the reliability of the senses as a way of obtaining true knowledge. So you’ll get statements in the form of “It appears to me now that…” or “It seems to me at this time that…” sheltering the skeptic from making an overt claim of knowledge and thereby refuting their own position (which is that knowledge appears to be impossible). It is this particular epistemological battlefield tactic that has done more to promote and sharpen historical public perception of philosophers as a bunch of useless wankers.

    How, historically, are pyrrhonian tropes dealt with? One response is the one (yay!) which many of the FTB Horde are taking – namely, replying that they too are dealing with appearances and are actually comfortable with imperfect knowledge and that, furthermore, perfect knowledge is not necessary in this situation since all they are doing is reporting their perception of the situation as it appears to be. In this manner what the pyrrhonian skeptic positions as a dodge allowing them to avoid making truth-claims becomes a lever against them, by also avoiding making truth-claims and asserting a proper deference to appearance. In fact I could quite honestly say “I withhold judgement about Shermer’s actions but it still appears to me now that he is a rapist.” No, I don’t know that he’s a rapist. I know only that he sure as hell appears to be one and that has been close enough for government work throughout human history.

    Pyrrhonian skeptical wanking (which is, admittedly, fun) would have been lost in the mists of history of philosophy except that it became an important epistemological weapon during the christian schism, as both sides successively (starting with Luther, who appears to have done some study of ancient skepticism) used pyrrhonian skeptical tropes as methods for demolishing the other side’s claims to true knowledge. For religion, true knowledge is important. For life in the world as it appears to be, it is not necessary. So we can leave that battlefield as being held finally by David Hume, probably the most brilliant philosphical wanker ever. But to those of us unconcerned with religious claims of absolute truth, we can rely on the scientific method, namely an avoidance of the problem of induction by establishing increasingly likely theories of truth that we overturn at the first piece of evidence that contradicts that theory. The scientific method does not concern itself with pyrrhonian tropes because it also deals with “what appears to me now…” and incorporates the understanding that our senses can be fooled, and applies disproportionate weight to perceptions that appear to contradict our theories.

    I’ve argued this point in this blog, before (or was it Stephanie’s?) with hyperskeptics, and it’s tedious. Because the hyperskeptical position is self-refuting. Obviously, if they’re in such extreme doubt about everything, they’d hardly waste their time appearing to post long screeds on a blog that is possibly a false sensation of a blog; a figment of their imagination, a blog-phantasm. Their claims that they are being “rational” are a trap to themselves (hint: “I appear now to be trying to be rational…” withhold judgement on your rationality, hyper-skeptics!) because one would only try to be rational on a blog that actually existed and one would only argue on such a blog if one actually was concerned with the very truth-claims that they reject the possibility of.

    (I highly recommend Popkin’s brilliant “History of Skepticism from Savanarola to Bayle” if you are interested in the way in which ancient skeptical tropes resurfaced over and over during periods of intense philosophical wanking and the enlightenment)

  29. says

    I’m really curious how many of the hyper-skeptics held claims of abuse within the catholic church to the same burden of proof to hold individuals to in the skeptic/atheist community.

    And if it were bigfoot believers of UFO-niks the hyperskeptics would fall upon them, howling and baying, like a pack of methed-out feral chihuahuas.

  30. says

    @ Marcus Ranum: Thanks for that. I’m still musing on it. This isn’t really a response, just thoughts that have been accumulating over the last few days.

    Look, to be honest, most people have a hard time applying the same standard to everything in their life–especially with things that are too close to them, or, conversely, with things that are completely outside their experience so they’ve already formed hard beliefs. That’s normal. It’s a struggle to turn the same critical eye to politicians and parties that I support, for example, and I do have to fight my internal impulses to hold, say, Obama to the same standard I held Bush. And I have been schooled, harshly at times, over false beliefs I’d formed about people of color, sex workers, etc. So I understand, I do. There’s a reason “cognitive dissonance” is a thing.

    But you know what?

    Moving past that–even when it hurts, even when it shakes the foundation of your world–that is what it means to be a skeptic. And I know a lot of these people are capable of it…look at all the people (including me) who started out committed, strong Christians (or other religion), with all that means, and for whatever reason had a massive paradigm shift and learned to accept a worldview that doesn’t include a deity. That is huge. And most of these people have shown they’re capable of it.

    So is it really so much harder to accept that a) woman are full human beings deserving of the same respect and standard of behavior that you treat your fellow bros, b) rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment are sadly quite common are not, by any stretch of the imagination, a extraordinary claim, c) false rape allegations are, according to the evidence, extremely rare, 2%-8%, and when the claim involves a specific person, they are even more rare (c&1/2: rape allegations are NOT EASY for the victim. It’s a huge violation of privacy, often involving at least one other physical violation, not something done for “fun”. It’s a terrifying, painful, humiliating ordeal. Full stop.) and d) WOMEN ARE PEOPLE AND SHOULD BE TREATED WITH RESPECT.

    How is that a harder mental shift than, “there is no god” or, I dunno, “homeopathy is bullshit”?

    Not to mention the necessary mental shift that happens when you become aware of your privilege, the false beliefs and prejudices you’ve accumulated. Especially when a member of an oppressed group is willing to educate you. But that is not just part of being a good skeptic, that is part of being a decent human being. There are no cookies for that, no “good skeptic” awards. That is a base requirement for being not horrible. It means decent people will not automatically shun you. (And after that shift, that’s where the real work begins. Kinda like, understanding there is no god is just the entrance test for atheism. You still have a lot of work ahead of you, should you chose it.)

    Am I wrong? Maybe I’m babbling. I’m sorry. I’m honestly just trying to get a handle on this. This is my only theory right now to explain the Pharyngula threads (and some of the people who show up here). Not that it makes it okay, but it’s somewhat easier for me to handle than the alternate theory that the atheist/skeptic movement is largely filled with sociopathic monsters.

  31. says

    it’s somewhat easier for me to handle than the alternate theory that the atheist/skeptic movement is largely filled with sociopathic monsters

    Ockham’s Razor, oh, it stings!

  32. says

    I had a thought last night as I was drifting off to sleep. It’s uncharitable, but too bad.

    Perhaps the bigfoot/homeopathy/ghost/reiki skeptics just aren’t very good at it. To be a successful skeptic against blurry pictures of the Loch Ness monster doesn’t require profound reasoning skills; you need to be a normally rational person and that’s about it. Bigfoot proponents don’t come up with sophistimacated theological intellectual suppositories like presuppositionalism. Refuting presuppositionalists or arguing with William Lane Craig’s intellectual dishonesty takes a willingness to think (a tiny bit), read and learn (some) while pointing out that the UFO in the picture looks like a 1959 Buick hubcap doesn’t. I’d characterize being a bigfoot skeptic as room temperature skepticism, while being skeptical about religious nonsense requires you to be at least on par with the smartest apologist you’re likely to encounter. Even that pathetic loser Ken Ham takes more reasoning skills to deal with than a bigfoot believer, if only because you’ve got to try to flip the viewpoints around in your head and understand where he’s coming from, in order to see its flaws; the reasoning required to reject bigfoot consists entirely of screaming “Bullshit!” (after all, that made Penn a famous skeptic..) while pointing out that the guy who faked the pictures has since admitted it.

    The hyperskeptics are employing slightly more sophisticated skepticism, starting at a base level of 2nd week philosophy undergraduates, with a small handful working their way up to levels of philosophic wankery that are best described as “sophomoric”

    I’m being facetious.

  33. says

    There’s a contingent of skeptics/atheists who, I think, don’t feel the need or desire to think very deeply about the issues. They see “logic” and “reason” as good things, and not much more than that, so they call things that are not-good “illogical” or “irrational” (also, that’s how Spock talked, and yay nerds). Phrases like “ad hominem” and “strawman” and “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” they understand mostly as mantras or deepities to be pulled out at certain points in discussions or arguments, to make everyone metaphorically nod their heads in agreement, even though they’re used with as much meaning as “everything happens for a reason.”

    Skepticism is not something these people do. At best, they practice a bit of cargo cult skepticism, which means parroting arguments and points in response to parroted arguments and points made by opponents. Skepticism is something these people joined, a club where they could feel superior to the UFO-believers and Bigfoot-believers, and in many cases, where they could justify an anti-hippie (e.g., anti-anti-GMO, anti-alt-med, anti-antivax, anti-environmentalist, anti-feminist, etc.) attitude. Skepticism is not a method for them to examine their deeply-held beliefs or rules they assume to be true (like the rules of scientific evidence or the rules of courtroom argumentation); that would be uncomfortable. Skepticism is instead a set of mantras focused on a set of topics that were popular among certain sets in the 1970s. Expanding skepticism beyond those topics is “mission drift” and antithetical to the basic principles of scientific skepticism, chief among which are “don’t make waves” and “don’t talk about anything that might make you or anyone else uncomfortable.” And so they persist in mocking woo-woo while believing in Invisible Hands and talking patronizingly about how we can’t afford to alienate that handful of potential theist allies by letting them know that we’re all atheists.

    I’m painting with a broad brush and I’m certainly oversimplifying, but I don’t think I’m wrong. Though I’m open to the possibility.

  34. anne mariehovgaard says

    @7:

    A claim isn’t evidence, in and of itself.

    A claim can most definitely be evidence – if (as is the case here) we are talking about claims like “X happened to me” or “I saw X happen to someone else”. A witness statement is evidence.

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