Mod+ 229. The 5 Things You Need to Know About Skeptiko

#21
That's why I said in a recent post that science can never prove anything: it makes progress only by disproving prior misunderstandings, and everything is in some degree or manner misunderstood.
agreed.

I do question the reality of psi phenomena in the sense of knowing what they actually are. So, for example, I don't question that NDEs occur, and it's true I have ideas as to what they might represent, but I do question whether interpretations by myself and others of these/other experiences are correct...I guess I'm trying to say that, without being stuck on stupid, there's still a lot of scope for genuine discussion, and there are marked differences of opinion amongst proponents.
good point... and we're all at different points on different issues. the breaking point seems to be mind=brain (i.e. Materialism/Naturalism) if you haven't hopped that hurdle then you're not in the game.
 
#22
I am relatively new to the podcast and even newer to the forum. I'm still stuck on stupid. I really enjoyed some of the archived podcasts (like the psychic detective ones) where Alex pitted expert against expert, skeptic against proponent. I would like more of these podcasts because I am not convinced either way, but these types of podcasts are swaying me (and they are more fun).
 
C

chuck.drake

#23
I think the scientific method is key; there's nothing wrong with it in principle. The trouble is, it isn't employed uniformly or even necessarily honestly. The basic idea is to examine the world and allow the information it gives us to be seriously considered. The issue is that at this point, the predilections of observers often cause them to make a judgement not to seriously consider it. We're all guilty of this, but part of scientific training that is under-emphasised is the capacity to be aware of one's own biases and not to allow them to cause rejection of data out of hand. One may not be able to avoid subjective bias, but one should, if one is to call oneself a scientist, or at least to claim a scientific approach, be able to recognise and acknowledge such bias and regardless, proceed with a truly open mind.

IMO, the main philosophical position that promotes this is agnosticism: the acknowledgement that we do not know anything with certainty, and indeed, that idea is deeply embedded in the philosophy of science. The day we feel certain about something is the day we stop investigating it: the issue is closed, the science is settled, and anyone who questions it is an idiot, despite the fact that the only way science progresses is when some "idiot" does in fact question it and demonstrates that it's a misunderstanding.

That's why I said in a recent post that science can never prove anything: it makes progress only by disproving prior misunderstandings, and everything is in some degree or manner misunderstood. On a good day, you'll get even the most biased person to accept this, but that's a very different matter to getting them to apply it in practice. It's not always because they are stupid or mendacious (though Ben Radford in Alex's clip appeared to be so), but because they haven't registered and acknowledged their own biases. Part of scientific training should be to develop scepticism in the truest sense of the word, with particular attention to being sceptical of oneself, ruthlessly identifying and taking steps to offset such bias.

IMO, the scientific method, were it always applied like this, would be applicable in all cases, including the evaluation of the psi/spiritual experiences of self and others. It's just that most people find it very difficult to live in a world where there's absolutely nothing certain to hang on to. At a certain point in trying to exercise agnosticism, one finds oneself in a state of recognition of ignorance, of how inexplicable the world really is, and can accept that without being perturbed. Einstein said the most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible. On the contrary, I'd say the most comprehensible thing about the world is that it is incomprehensible, and the most amazing thing, that despite our always mistaken understanding, it's nonetheless possible to evolve and learn.



I do question the reality of psi phenomena in the sense of knowing what they actually are. So, for example, I don't question that NDEs occur, and it's true I have ideas as to what they might represent, but I do question whether interpretations by myself and others of these/other experiences are correct. Sometimes when I read what people have to say about their experiences, I think they may be creating a narrative to explain them, and all narratives possess a degree of literalism that can effectively close off different avenues of enquiry. This is the counterpart of how some scientists try to squeeze the data into a preformed mould, as was illustrated by the one in the clip Alex played where the guy introduced the idea that below the cortical mantle, some brain activity was still occurring, as if that solved the problem of how the patient could see the colour of the suit a doctor was wearing.

I guess I'm trying to say that, without being stuck on stupid, there's still a lot of scope for genuine discussion, and there are marked differences of opinion amongst proponents. It's this area of discussion that most interests me, and from time to time, discussions here on Skeptiko have caused me to revise my opinion. Since coming here, for example, I've changed my leaning from panpsychism to idealism (thanks to Bernardo Kastrup's contributions), and also revised my views on the issue of alien abductions, which at one time I more or less completely dismissed. It's vital, in my view, that we can have such discussions without the intervention of those who are "stuck on stupid". The new Mod+ category is helpful here, but I would like to see the possibility of members being able to raise threads in that category: it's not clear to me whether/how that could be done.
I guess I'm saying that the scientific method isn't really of much use to a shaman, or someone inside a sweat lodge. These are subjective, "spiritual" experiences that can't be quantified or measured. We can't take the scientific method inside a dream.

Yes. We can do studies of dreams, even of precognitive dreams. But the whole point of studying these things in my mind, ultimately, is spiritual transformation. And studying spiritual transformation can only get you so far down the ladder. Eventually you have to actually get into the pool.
 
#24
I guess I'm saying that the scientific method isn't really of much use to a shaman, or someone inside a sweat lodge. These are subjective, "spiritual" experiences that can't be quantified or measured. We can't take the scientific method inside a dream.

Yes. We can do studies of dreams, even of precognitive dreams. But the whole point of studying these things in my mind, ultimately, is spiritual transformation. And studying spiritual transformation can only get you so far down the ladder. Eventually you have to actually get into the pool.
Well, I think you're being too restrictive in your interpretation of "scientific". You'll find that people like Ken Wilber, Idries Shah, even the Dalai Lama, have stressed that spiritual investigation is in principle a scientific exercise that shamans and other "experts in the field" ascribe to. A constant exhortation is not to deceive yourself, not to let your prejudices sidetrack you.

Ultimately, at the end of the chain of scientific investigation is the subjective mind of the interpreter, and what we call "objectivity" is actually an intersubjective agreement to accept a particular interpretation. "Facts" are intersubjective agreements, and we all know how they are much more malleable than people realise. Certainly, some interpretations are closer to reality than others, but no interpretations are outright incontrovertible facts. The most we can usually say is that the only incontrovertible fact is that something was experienced, and maybe by a large number of credible people.

Even scientific prediction is involved in some spiritual schools. If the seeker does this or that, s/he will experience this or that, and that can be verified on a personal basis by individuals engaged in the relevant assigned tasks or activities. Conversely, the signalling by the seeker that s/he has experienced this or that can be diagnostic of his/her state. Spiritual masters, by many reports, spend a lot of time training their students to approach their studies in a scientific manner, as well as in preventing them drawing undue conclusions.
 
C

chuck.drake

#25
Well, I think you're being too restrictive in your interpretation of "scientific". You'll find that people like Ken Wilber, Idries Shah, even the Dalai Lama, have stressed that spiritual investigation is in principle a scientific exercise that shamans and other "experts in the field" ascribe to. A constant exhortation is not to deceive yourself, not to let your prejudices sidetrack you.

Ultimately, at the end of the chain of scientific investigation is the subjective mind of the interpreter, and what we call "objectivity" is actually an intersubjective agreement to accept a particular interpretation. "Facts" are intersubjective agreements, and we all know how they are much more malleable than people realise. Certainly, some interpretations are closer to reality than others, but no interpretations are outright incontrovertible facts. The most we can usually say is that the only incontrovertible fact is that something was experienced, and maybe by a large number of credible people.

Even scientific prediction is involved in some spiritual schools. If the seeker does this or that, s/he will experience this or that, and that can be verified on a personal basis by individuals engaged in the relevant assigned tasks or activities. Conversely, the signalling by the seeker that s/he has experienced this or that can be diagnostic of his/her state. Spiritual masters, by many reports, spend a lot of time training their students to approach their studies in a scientific manner, as well as in preventing them drawing undue conclusions.
I agree with this. Shinzen Young, who was also on Skeptiko, talks about bringing western scientific ideals to eastern practices. But I still think in the end the whole point of all these exercises is spiritual transformation--whatever that means.
 
#27
he's certainly hard to get a fix on... then again, he might just be masterfully turning the materialistic ocean-liner by playing it very close to the vest... let's hope :)
Hauntingly familiar refrain..."I'm going to vote for Obama again with hopes that he is playing it very close to the vest..." Sadly (and not to say that the other side was any better...clearly we are dealing with a two headed...Dem/Rep corporate monster)... NDAA is appealed and still in place, USA becomes NSA, threats to Syria and Iran, banksters still walk, whistleblowers go to jail, and now TPP...and this is far from a complete list! I watch 'Lie to Me' so I see the method you speak of clearly dramatized...(and of course it works great every time Tim Roth uses it!)...but shouldn't we have some way to know other than blind hope?
 

Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
#28
Great stuff!

Alex, you articulated your vision very well - especially point 4: "I'm less interested in whether or not Sam Parnia's new AWARE study will win over some of the atheists, skeptics, who are still on the fence about the reality of near-death experience. What I'm interested in is comparing near-death experiences with other experiences, with extended human consciousness, whether they be a DMT-induced hallucination, or a kundalini experience, or a UFO encounter. That's the kind of question that lies beyond the whole consciousness-is-an-illusion-of-a-biological robot stupid stuff..." And still checking out your assumptions, being aware of what's the dominant paradigm, and the Judao-Christian cultural roots thing. ;) This couldn't be closer to where I'm at also - although I'm sure that's already pretty obvious. :)

I'm also glad you changed the tagline on the Skeptiko homepage: This podcast is a leading source for intelligent dialog on science and spirituality.

At the end of point 5, you asked for our continued input, and I'll say I am, personally, a little concerned about the possibility that the BvS forum sub-section will become the old Skeptiko forum and attract all kinds of "stuck-on-stupid" shenanigans, continue to hypnotize many "proponents" also who are addicted to debating materialists ;), and derail attention away from the main direction - and maybe you'll want to keep thinking about that as time goes by. However, at the same time, I realize and appreciate that you want to keep the widest possible variety of voices. (I do think, though, that there's already a very fertile, and under-explored, field of dissent, debate, discussion, analysis, etc., among mind≠brain/spirituality thinkers and the reading of the various "data", perspectives, etc.)
 
#29
It is very important to bring these realities regarding ‘research’ to light…and how a worldview hung up on belief of ANY kind can paralyze progress when people get ‘stuck on stupid’ (great term!: ) debates. It’s crucial that people consider that much of these SOS debates are designed to distract us and may have the intent of taking up air time while focusing attention away from the germain research regarding the question of “Who are we...wet computers or spirits having a human experience?”
Much? The number/% of SOS debates "designed to distract" is unknown, not quantifiable. Some? No doubt whatsoever about it. If one takes offense at the reality that some pseudoskeptics have planned discontent, then that "one" needs a certain reality check. :D
 
#30
The current podcast also raised in my mind a possibility that I'd like to float. Alex beautifully illustrated what he meant by being "stuck on stupid" by using extracts from past podcasts. It struck me that the podcasts are an under-exploited goldmine whereby a number of key issues/questions could be addressed. It's maybe something we could crowd-source. The steps might be something like this:

1. Identify a list of key issues/questions.
2. Identify podcasts where they are dealt with.
3. embed relevant podcasts using media frames, e.g:

I think this is a great idea, because all the podcasts contain an absolute goldmine of information that could help anyone to see how the whole subject holds together. Very very few people are going to discover this forum and plough through 200 podcasts before joining in, but if they could browse the relevant bits that tie it all together, that would be much easier.

There is a website that shows all the ClimateGate emails, that shows the links between them and the threads of dishonest discussions that were exposed. That website transformed what was a very turgid collection of emails into a really valuable resource - this could work in a similar way.

We could all contribute by taking one or two podcasts and picking out the most significant fragments and proposing them to Alex. In future someone could simply make such a record as they listened to a podcast for the first time.

There could be multiple threads through the data. Thus if skeptics really think there is a plausible materialistic message to be found in there (we have had plenty of materialist speakers to put their case) they could propose a thread of fragments of podcasts to listen to. I say that somewhat tongue in cheek because I honestly don't think the materialists/skaptics have made much of a case at all - something that has amazed me.

David
 
#31
I am relatively new to the podcast and even newer to the forum. I'm still stuck on stupid. I really enjoyed some of the archived podcasts (like the psychic detective ones) where Alex pitted expert against expert, skeptic against proponent. I would like more of these podcasts because I am not convinced either way, but these types of podcasts are swaying me (and they are more fun).
fair enough... heck, you may get thru a bunch of this material and come to a different conclusion. this old saying seems to fit... "no man crosses the same river twice, because neither the man nor the river are the same."
 
#32
Hauntingly familiar refrain..."I'm going to vote for Obama again with hopes that he is playing it very close to the vest..." Sadly (and not to say that the other side was any better...clearly we are dealing with a two headed...Dem/Rep corporate monster)... NDAA is appealed and still in place, USA becomes NSA, threats to Syria and Iran, banksters still walk, whistleblowers go to jail, and now TPP...and this is far from a complete list! I watch 'Lie to Me' so I see the method you speak of clearly dramatized...(and of course it works great every time Tim Roth uses it!)...but shouldn't we have some way to know other than blind hope?
I agree... I don't like this game-playing style... then again, it might accelerate change. Telling folks how freak'n stupid their belief systems are doesn't seem to always work either :)
 
#33
Great stuff!

Alex, you articulated your vision very well - especially point 4: "I'm less interested in whether or not Sam Parnia's new AWARE study will win over some of the atheists, skeptics, who are still on the fence about the reality of near-death experience. What I'm interested in is comparing near-death experiences with other experiences, with extended human consciousness, whether they be a DMT-induced hallucination, or a kundalini experience, or a UFO encounter. That's the kind of question that lies beyond the whole consciousness-is-an-illusion-of-a-biological robot stupid stuff..." And still checking out your assumptions, being aware of what's the dominant paradigm, and the Judao-Christian cultural roots thing. ;) This couldn't be closer to where I'm at also - although I'm sure that's already pretty obvious. :)

I'm also glad you changed the tagline on the Skeptiko homepage: This podcast is a leading source for intelligent dialog on science and spirituality.

At the end of point 5, you asked for our continued input, and I'll say I am, personally, a little concerned about the possibility that the BvS forum sub-section will become the old Skeptiko forum and attract all kinds of "stuck-on-stupid" shenanigans, continue to hypnotize many "proponents" also who are addicted to debating materialists ;), and derail attention away from the main direction - and maybe you'll want to keep thinking about that as time goes by. However, at the same time, I realize and appreciate that you want to keep the widest possible variety of voices. (I do think, though, that there's already a very fertile, and under-explored, field of dissent, debate, discussion, analysis, etc., among mind≠brain/spirituality thinkers and the reading of the various "data", perspectives, etc.)
thx... well, the tough thing about some of the BvS debates is that many of them are real. I mean, folks like you and I look in on some of those threads and immediately assume that these folks are just there to annoy and disrupt... but that's not always the case. It's like the did Noah's ark have nails debate, we may think that's pretty darn silly, but there are some folks that really need to process that. moreover, consider the clip I played of Dr. Stephan Mayer... I think his arguments are silly, but considering his position I think we need to hash out his claims.
 
#34
Much? The number/% of SOS debates "designed to distract" is unknown, not quantifiable. Some? No doubt whatsoever about it. If one takes offense at the reality that some pseudoskeptics have planned discontent, then that "one" needs a certain reality check. :D
pls elaborate... not sure I totally get it.
 
#35
I think this is a great idea, because all the podcasts contain an absolute goldmine of information that could help anyone to see how the whole subject holds together. Very very few people are going to discover this forum and plough through 200 podcasts before joining in, but if they could browse the relevant bits that tie it all together, that would be much easier.

There is a website that shows all the ClimateGate emails, that shows the links between them and the threads of dishonest discussions that were exposed. That website transformed what was a very turgid collection of emails into a really valuable resource - this could work in a similar way.

We could all contribute by taking one or two podcasts and picking out the most significant fragments and proposing them to Alex. In future someone could simply make such a record as they listened to a podcast for the first time.

There could be multiple threads through the data. Thus if skeptics really think there is a plausible materialistic message to be found in there (we have had plenty of materialist speakers to put their case) they could propose a thread of fragments of podcasts to listen to. I say that somewhat tongue in cheek because I honestly don't think the materialists/skaptics have made much of a case at all - something that has amazed me.

David
I'm happy to help. am also looking at some tools/tech to make older shows more accessible.
 
#36
Much? The number/% of SOS debates "designed to distract" is unknown, not quantifiable. Some? No doubt whatsoever about it. If one takes offense at the reality that some pseudoskeptics have planned discontent, then that "one" needs a certain reality check. :D
@alextsakiris - cker claimed that "much of the SOS [stuck-on-stupid] debates are designed to distract" . I suggested that since there exists no polls or studies that reveal that "much" - i.e. more than 50% of these debates are so designed around the SOS protocol - that "some" may be a more appropriate numerical generality. Of "some" I am sure since the debaters themselves have admitted.

From an entirely intuitive standpoint, I would agree with cker. :)
 
#37
thx... well, the tough thing about some of the BvS debates is that many of them are real. I mean, folks like you and I look in on some of those threads and immediately assume that these folks are just there to annoy and disrupt... but that's not always the case. It's like the did Noah's ark have nails debate, we may think that's pretty darn silly, but there are some folks that really need to process that. moreover, consider the clip I played of Dr. Stephan Mayer... I think his arguments are silly, but considering his position I think we need to hash out his claims.
Speaking of hashing out claims, I'm still hoping that you're going to give me a more substantive reply to the arguments I made in the lancet thread. I think it would be a valuable exercise for both of us. From my perspective I put thought behind what I wrote and don't consider it silly or stupid. That said, I'm open to the possibility that I'm really missing something and made some fundamental error in my analysis. But the only semi substantive response from people so far have been to link me to other sources that to my reading don't seem to directly relate to the points I raised. I would appreciate it if you could be more specific in what error you believe I made. (This goes to everyone by the way - multiple replies will be welcome!)
 
#38
From my perspective I put thought behind what I wrote and don't consider it silly or stupid. That said, I'm open to the possibility that I'm really missing something and made some fundamental error in my analysis.
Ermmm, no you're not. And that really is the point.

Time and Again, I have heard Alex say he is going to 'follow the data, where ever it may lead', and that is what he is doing. The vast web of data that has built up through much interdisciplinary research (and been largely ignored and dismissed dishonestly) poses tremendous problems for the materialistic/naturalistic paradigm.

The materialist paradigm (biological robot) has no power to explain the data, in fact it is entirely falsified by the data, but subscribers continue to ignore this data. Claims of bad science, poor understanding, fraud, etc are put forward, but when these don't work, you simply go back to ignoring the data. Again you continue with the promisory theme of materialism, that it will one day find a way to reduce all phenomena to physical nuts and bolts. Then come appeals to what we don't yet know made in defense of the materialist view, and what we do know (that awkward data) is once again dismissed. Understand, this is not scienctific enquiry, this is faith based apologetics.

Sure, there is doubt, there is doubt in all scientific and philosophical inquiry, however, if we are honest, the greatest doubt is being cast on the materialist paradigm and its ability to explain the data (which it can't).

My 2 pence.
 
Last edited:
#39
Ermmm, no you're not. And that really is the point.

Time and Again, I have heard Alex say he is going to 'follow the data, where ever it may lead', and that is what he is doing. The vast web of data that has built up through much interdisciplinary research (and been largely ignored and dismissed dishonestly) poses tremendous problems for the materialistic/naturalistic paradigm.

The materialist paradigm (biological robot) has no power to explain the data, in fact it is entirely falsified by the data, but subscribers continue to ignore this data. Claims of bad science, poor understanding, fraud, etc are put forward, but when these don't work, you simply go back to ignoring the data. Again you continue with the promisory theme of materialism, that it will one day find a way to reduce all phenomena to physical nuts and bolts. Then come appeals to what we don't yet know made in defense of the materialist view, and what we do know (that awkward data) is once again dismissed. Understand, this is not scienctific enquiry, this is faith based apologetics.

Sure, there is doubt, there is doubt in all scientific and philosophical inquiry, however, if we are honest, the greatest doubt is being cast on the materialist paradigm and its ability to explain the data (which it can't).

My 2 pence.
But generalities don't help with the assessment of this particular argument. Let's not clog up this thread, I really just wanted to post a reminder here . Maybe you can you let me know where you think my analysis is off back in the Lancet thread? http://www.skeptiko.com/forum/threads/the-van-lommel-lancet-nde-paper.110/
 
#40
Alex, I have to say what a delight it has been to hear your podcast and that I enjoy each and every episode. Pleased to be a new member here, and like what I see thus far. A cache of intelligent and good character oriented discussion around the formidable challenge of expanding the constraints of science to become a domain of open accountability. :)
 
Top