Mod+ 236. ROME VIHARO, WIKIPEDIA, WE HAVE A PROBLEM

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by alex.tsakiris, Jan 14, 2014.

  1. Alex

    Alex New

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  2. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Alex's questions at the end of the podcast:

    1. What does the Wikipedia controversy say about the way science is put across (including, for example, the lack of support by scientists of Rupert Sheldrake), and is it a widespread issue?

    2. Is the issue of exposing the unfair bias in Wikipedia the same as it was in the case of TED censorship of Sheldrake, and is it really a blessing in disguise?


    You might find Rome Viharo's site interesting and relevant:

    http://wikipediawehaveaproblem.com/
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2014
  3. Ian Thompson

    Ian Thompson Member

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    I come back to the issue of what motivates these pseudo-skeptics? Is it 'group think' as Rome suggested, or is it more 'preserving the status quo' as Alex proposed?

    I think back to when I was a teenager 'in the grip of scientism', and how I felt various reactions to proposed ideas about mind or spiritual things.
    I remember feeling almost a gut distaste when those things were mentioned. I felt ill! I felt I had stomach ulcers! It was like feeling that the whole ground you are standing on is about to give way. It was like seeing your life's problems in front of you as a terrible tangle that I could never solve even in a lifetime.
    I thought that there were indeed some terrible ideas that science had managed to banish from everyday life (eg. witchcraft, magic, I thought), notions that should be banished, on peril of making the world worse. (This is similar to Sagan's later banishing the 'demon-haunted world').

    I do not feel that it was 'group think' as such. I was scientifically oriented, but knew that I could still change things in science by new discoveries. I could imagine changing the way the group thinks, just like my heroes of Faraday, Maxwell, Einstein, etc. (I may have been naively optimistic about the likelihood of that, but I knew it possible, so I was not committed to group think.)

    For the same reasons I was not just about preserving the status quo, as such. I could change that. Perhaps Alex was right, in that I was still preserving science or scientism, though at the time I did not see it.

    On reflection now, I conclude:
    Each of us has adopted some various ideas as unconditionally true (whether about science, or religion, or agnosticism, or whatever). And that these ideas become attached to our manner of feeling what is good and what is distasteful. We develop a feeling for those ideas as good, and 'good' becomes defined as what agrees with those ideas. Conversely, any opposing ideas give rise to distaste and unease and uncertainty and anxiety. So we fight back! That is what the pseudo-skeptics are doing. They are fighting back against ideas which (in their own minds) are upsetting.

    You may well ask whether this is the correct way that our affections and ideas should be organized? Should we be able to become so emotionally attached to ideas which have (in the end) a high chance of being wrong? Should not we keep some kind of flexibility?

    Now in my life I can generalize that each of us, as we grow up, is seeking for something to be taken as 'unconditionally good'. Something that be a foundation on which to build one's life. It may be religion, or science. It may be 'creativity as such' (it was for me at one point), or art, or community commitment, or saving the whales, or whatever.

    Even taking a religious viewpoint, this is necessary. We have to make some kind of commitment or other: some kind of affirmation of trust in what is good and faith in what is true. On a religious view, humans are 'designed' to have to make such affirmations: preferably to what is good in God and true from God of course. Though, as we see so often these days, these same kind of commitments are now being made to other things that should not be affirmed in the same way.
     
  4. Typoz

    Typoz Member

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    Perhaps the problem here is inherent in the nature of the universe, or at least our little corner of it. What we believe has the effect of constructing the world around us. Of course there may be occasional dissonances when something external intrudes into the cocoon of ideas with which we surround ourselves, but these can be minimised as we see on these forums by casting doubt on any challenging evidence which intrudes into our world.

    What I'm saying is that it is inevitable that people - all of us, regardless of stance - will tend to become attached to our ideas since ideas do truly construct what we experience, thus ideas are self-reinforcing. We experience positive feedback all the time as we continue to believe in something and then observe the world doing its best to conform to our ideas.

    The power of the mind to create is almost always under-estimated in the context of how we evaluate the validity of any particular world view. Particularly so among those who have not realised that this is even possible. The story of the Emperor's New Clothes is often considered as a comical tale or an example of human stupidity, but there is some serious reality behind it, ideas do form the building blocks of what we experience, and so long as we continue to build using the same types of building blocks, we will end up with the same types of buildings.
     
  5. Alex

    Alex New

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    great post... thx. yea, I think it's all about bringing the external world into our internal reality so we can control it... and therefore feel that we are in control of our lives.
     
  6. Ian Thompson

    Ian Thompson Member

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    This is similar to what I am saying, although I do not believe that "ideas do truly construct what we experience": I take a realist view of the external world.

    We need to explain the feelings and desires involved in pseudo-skepticism. It is not enough just to explain the ideas involved. You begin such an explanation when you talk of 'attachment' and 'positive feedback'. But positive feedback can be purely physical, as in a tower falling over. What are the feelings and desires involved in your 'positive' rather than 'negative' feedback, and why?

    Alex talks about "bringing the external world into our internal reality so we can control it". The desire to control things is certainly one existing and deep motivation that would propel pseudo-skeptics in their tasks, and we generally agree that such a desire is not good if it is the principal love in ones life.

    However, I suggest that pseudo-skepticism can also arise even from a misplaced love of truth, which (in itself) is good. If we decide that materialism is true and we come to love that truth, then this also gives rise to the stuck-on-stupid behavior that we have all seen. That is because materialism is not true, and the unconditional affirmation of materialism leads to the stupid denials that we see (for example) from Jerry Coyne every day. SOS symptoms may have arisen from desires to control reality, but they may also come from desires to understand reality enough to base ones life on that that understanding but the process going awry.
     
  7. Typoz

    Typoz Member

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    Well, we may have some areas of overlapping views, but I'm not sure that I can answer the question, "What are the feelings and desires involved..." as that isn't particularly part of the viewpoint I was expressing. Sometimes I get a little carried away in posting my views when it's not necessarily something which I'd planned on expanding upon. Hope it's ok if I just leave it at that.
     
  8. Reece

    Reece Member

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    Great, unexpected interview, Alex . . . very much enjoyed it.
     
  9. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    IMO, behind the need to feel in control is the need to feel safe and secure rather than threatened or frightened. I think that's the primal motivator, and why we may react with considerable hostility to those holding different views. But interestingly, when we really know whereof we speak, we're less inclined to hostility.

    The degree of people's hostility then becomes a barometer of how uncertain they are of their beliefs. This applies even if what they believe in happens to be true: the key point is their uncertainty about the facts of the situation.

    The greater the uncertainty, the greater the tendency to insult and stigmatise those who differ. When someone resorts to invective, It's a telling giveaway that they're feeling insecure. When I think back, it's often been the quietly spoken truths, accompanied by a disinclination to argue by my interlocutor, that have impressed me; even if it's only later after I've calmed down, and honestly reflected on the exchange.

    1. What does the Wikipedia controversy say about the way science is put across (including, for example, the lack of support by scientists of Rupert Sheldrake), and is it a widespread issue?

    It's happening all over the place in a number of contentious "scientific" areas, e.g. psi, AIDS, cosmology, CAGW, Darwinism as an adequate explanation of evolution, and so on. In each of those cases, we have an orthodox view and the tendency of its supporters to vilify dissenters. Based on my rule of thumb, that's a giveaway that the mainstream case isn't as open-and-shut as it's made out to be: after all, you don't get aggressive defence of the laws of thermodynamics, do you?

    There tend to be a few angry and very vocal scientists who promulgate such orthodoxies; they act as authority figures for the many more laypeople to whom it's important that an orthodoxy be true. Laypeople's arguments necessarily have to rely to some extent on "expert" opinion, but as often as not, they've predetermined the truth that's most conducive to their personal security, and expert opinion is just a tool with which to beat dissenters over the head. To be fair, some dissenters may be their mirror image even if it should turn out their views are correct.

    Most scientists aren't very visible in such contentious areas. Privately, they may have personal doubts, but if so, it's inadvisable for them to voice them if they want to continue to receive funding and keep their jobs. IMO, it's not so much how science is put across, as how science is organised these days. The people in charge of the allocation of funds are orthodoxists; they're the ones most in control, and so the feedback is self-reinforcing. It's hardly surprising that we tend to hear little of the genuine doubts that real working scientists might have. It takes enormous courage to voice those doubts, and in their shoes, would I have that courage? I'm not sure.

    2. Is the issue of exposing the unfair bias in Wikipedia the same as it was in the case of TED censorship of Sheldrake, and is it really a blessing in disguise?


    I think it's similar. In both cases, it's not so much scientists who are attacking Sheldrake, as laypeople invested in an orthodox worldview, spurred on by the pronouncements of those angry and vocal scientists I've mentioned. Insofar as we make progress by making mistakes, I suppose it could be a blessing in disguise. History's littered with examples of orthodoxies that have been held and defended to the bitter end, and thereby stalled progress.

    Science is supposed to be one area where it's possible to look at claims dispassionately, and where scepticism is welcomed, but in the end, science isn't completely independent of the social milieu in which it's practised. If a few of the sacred cows get slaughtered (I suppose two of the most influential currently are CAGW and Darwinism), the ramifications will be enormous. The scientific establishment stands to lose a great deal of its kudos, and that mustn't be allowed to happen, which I think accounts for the insecurity and hostility displayed by prestigious scientific bodies and publications (whose ordinary members/contributors may not actually be fully onboard).

    The more the evidence mounts against orthodox establishments, the shriller is the defence. Unwittingly, they're exposing their uncertainties all the more by that. One doesn't have to be an expert to detect that and smell a rat: but there's nothing else orthodoxies can do to defend themselves than turn up the volume. At some point, hopefully soon, the crisis point will be reached and issues be resolved one way or the other.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2014
  10. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    I'll second that, minus the "unexpected" a little. I'm right now in the middle of reading Craig's new book: Psi Wars: TED, Wikipedia and the Battle for the Internet so this is felicitous and fits in nicely.

    Shameless little plug for you Craig! ;) Go here if you buy the print version and put a few more bucks in Craig's pocket:
    https://www.createspace.com/4556589

    The kindle link:
    http://www.amazon.com/PSI-Wars-Wiki...-ebook/dp/B00H35ONA8/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top
     
  11. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    This is particularly disturbing to me:

     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2014
  12. Reece

    Reece Member

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    Yeah . . . if you google 'Skeptiko,' Alex Tsakiris's Rationalwiki entry comes up third down . . .
     
  13. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    I guess I was sympathizing more for Rome, because he did not choose to reveal his identity.
     
  14. Alex

    Alex New

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    agreed :)
     
  15. Alex

    Alex New

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    I've noticed :) and it does have an impact... kinda like the 200 negative votes I got on iTunes within the first few months of my show being on the air. I think the trick is to expose the nonsense without getting pulled into too much of the drama.
     
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  16. Alan Amsberg

    Alan Amsberg New

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    One way to view this:

    1. There are "three" "religions":
    The "New" Evidence Based "Religion" (EBR) - This is the "Skeptiko" religion. We need a better name for this.
    The "Old" Evidence Base "Religion" of sciencism of which the skeptics are the zealous voluntary foot soldiers. Their world view is threatened by the new EBR so they fight back.
    Traditional religions (Christianity etc) - These are less threatened because they have, in many ways, already surrendered to Scientism. For example, there are many Christians who do not believe in the literal resurrection of Christ.

    2. The foot soldiers of the Old EBR are numerous and powerful because they are, more or less, united in their cause and clear about what needs to be done

    3. The New EBR "loses" the Wikipedia war because it has insufficiently numerous and insufficiently zealous foot soldiers. Why is this? It is because the New EBR is small and fractured.
    -There are many who wonder about NDEs/esp/spirits etc etc
    -There are a few who actually learn about this
    -There are fewer still who actually come to believe it and who see the whole picture
    -There are fewer still who internalize it and change their world view. It is uncomfortable to believe these things. Everybody thinks you're crazy (worse in my case as I actually have a mental illness). This is why Skeptiko and the forum are a draw for me as it is one of a very few places where I can find like minded people.

    The New EBR is also disorganised because there is no "Jesus figure" (Alex does his best but, well, he's short on the miracles) for it to coalesce around.

    So, what to do about it? I'm not sure there is anything to do about it. Anyone who sincerely seeks out this knowledge will find plenty of sources for it. I think the New EBR will win out in the end as it has reality on its side but change is slow. It will take 30/60/90 years.

    Anyway, that's my thinking.
     
  17. Alex

    Alex New

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    HI Alan... agree... and:
    - if the root cause of all this is "I don't want to feel frightened... I want to feel in control"... if this is what's behind an OEBR that says, "don't worry we got this universe thing all figured out... we're in control"... and at the same time is what's behind traditional religions that say, "don't worry we got this God thing figured out... he's in control, but only we know what he really wants you to do"... then we may have a problem that isn't very fixable.

    - because, as you elude to, the problem isn't just numbers, it's zeal :) us NEBR folks are never going to have much zeal for anything other than seeking, and at the same time questioning, our beliefs.
     
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  18. Alan Amsberg

    Alan Amsberg New

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    I feel the "problem" is fixing itself albeit slowly. A good example is NDE's which have penetrated the mass psyche a bit. It took decades or hundreds of years for the scientific materialist world view to become dominant in the West (it still isn't dominant in other parts of the world).

    Should we expect anything different from the New EBR?

    I also think it is faster than we think. You, me and many others here have lots of knowledge from lots of places. Think of the work to assemble that knowledge in 1900 or 1980 or 1990 or even 2000. You would have to buy lots of books which are hard to find. You would have no effective way to communicate with like minded people - no way to ask questions - no way to review the questions of others. So, in a way, all the progress that has been made has been made since the internet really got going (and because the internet really got going). I think the rate of progress is fast really. It'll still take a long time (decades) but much less than the time it took the "Old EBR" take become dominant over traditional religions.
     
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  19. Hopeful

    Hopeful Member

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    As silly as this may sound, if what some say about how when were here, were SUPPOSED to be unaware on what the true nature of consciousness is, then perhaps WE are the ones who are the bad guys because we are going against the will of whomever or whatever created this space we currently occupy. While it may seem the materialist are "the man" and keeping us down, possibly they are the ones doing what they were sent here to do while we are the rebels trying to uproot the very nature of why were here and what were supposed to learn from it.
    Probably wrong, but worth throwing out there.
    Great interview as always Alex. Thank you so much for all you do. Also, great work from the posters of this forum. I love you guys (and gals of course).
    Hopeful
     
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  20. Larry

    Larry Member

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    I think the spiritual evolutionary path is to become conscious of our true nature - which is different than adopting a belief system, that is, to know our true nature directly – not separate. I think EBR might be helpful but could also be a bypass from doing the work required for the apperception of the real. I don’t think it’s possible to know our deeper spiritual nature without experiencing it directly. It may give us some comfort if science can finally say that consciousness survives death but it may not be that much different than a religious belief system if it doesn’t inspire us to actualize that reality. IMO
     
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