Brian Dunning, Is the “Skeptical Thing” Over? |363|

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, Oct 3, 2017.

  1. Alex

    Alex New

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    Brian Dunning, Is the “Skeptical Thing” Over? |363|
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    Brian Dunning hosts a popular skeptical podcast, but is the “skeptical community” being pushed to the fringe.[​IMG]
    photo by: Skeptiko
    (audio from James Rani’s 2013 Amazing Meeting) Welcome back everybody. Moving right along, as they say, get your seats, get your seats. This is going to be a killer panel, I’m so excited to listen to this. Coming up now we’ve got magicians vs psychics…

    Is it just me. or does the whole skeptical thing just sound dated? Like this clip from the 2013 Amazing Meeting.

    Okay, here is the haiku from magicians vs psychics; both groups flat-out lie, you know, magicians, psychics, only one is honest…

    Dated in a Johnny Carson kind of way.

    (audio from Tonight Show) James Randi is here tonight and…

    But it’s still kind of amazing to me, to look back at just a few short years ago, when real scientists like Richard Dawkins and Neil deGrasse Tyson embraced this guy who, as I explained today’s guest Brian Dunning, the creator and host of the Skeptoid podcast , is a proven liar.

    (Alex Tsakiris) This guy was caught lying over and over. He lied about Uri Geller, he lied about Rupert Sheldrake, he lied to dozens of people about The Million Dollar Challenge and that was found out… he lied about his background, he claimed he was this genius with an IQ of 186 and he didn’t have to go to school, because he had this special [library pass]. I mean, his whole story was just one lie after another. You really consider this guy a mentor? In what way was he a mentor, or someone who you would look up to?

    (Brian Dunning) Well first of all I want to say I don’t know anything about any of those charges you just threw at him and I don’t judge my friends based on what other people say about them.

    Now skeptics still can provide a backdrop, if you will, to the real frontier science that’s going on and I tried to explain that to Brian in this interview but we didn’t get very far. So I’ll include some additional clips at the end of this show.

    But it sure seems to me that this whole skeptical thing is over and, like Brian’s new film, Principles of Curiosity

    (audio from film) The result, many of the new science discoveries you hear about on the TV News or read on the Consumer Focused website, really are, more than likely, wrong!

    It all sounds a little dated. Stay with me, my interview with Brian Dunning of Skeptoid is next on Skeptiko.
     
  2. "Is the skeptical thing over?"

    No.

    Atheists will never admit religion was right and they were wrong about consciousness.

    But there are also many other reasons for pseudo-skepticism:
    https://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/skeptical_fallacies#skeptical_fallacies_skeptics_rational

    Philosophical naturalism, the belief that paranormal phenomena do not exist, has been integrated into the scientific world view and students of science are indoctrinated in that philosophy during their education.
    ...
    Besides being seen as allied with religion, psychic phenomena are also a threat to science's place as the best means of obtaining information about the universe. Why would you need scientists if you could ask a psychic or a spirit?
    ...
    some scientists, engineers, philosophers, and other intellectuals, may become so habituated to reductionist thinking that they are unable to conceive that some phenomena cannot be explained in terms of simpler phenomena. For example, the subjective experience of consciousness, what pain feels like, or what red looks like, cannot be understood through reductionism.
    ...
    Some religious leaders reject psychic phenomena (see the comment at the top of the link) because those phenomena threaten the dogmatic teachings of their religion. It undermines their authority as the source of information on the afterlife, God, and other spiritual subjects. In some cases it also subverts their role as an intermediary between the individual and supernatural entities
    ...
    Some people hold a grudge against religion because they have been harmed psychologically by overly dogmatic upbringing, or because some religion condemns their lifestyle choices.
    ...
    Sometimes materialism is just wishful thinking. It makes some people (who may be suffering from depression) feel better to believe all pain and suffering will end with the extinction of consciousness at death.
    ...
    When some people experience a personal loss, or experience extreme hardship, or feel concern about the extreme hardships of others, they may be unable to understand how God could allow such suffering to occur. As a result, they may feel angry at God or be unable to believe in God. This may cause them adopt materialism and express hostility toward anything that relates to God such as belief in the afterlife or anything that contradicts materialism such as evidence for psychic phenomena.
    ...
    Certain government agencies have spread disinformation about the reality of psychic phenomena to discourage other countries from developing psychic means for spying and sabotage, and to protect the secrecy of their own government's programs to develop those capabilities.
    ...
    Some debunkers make a living disputing every paranormal claim and sometimes misrepresent the empirical evidence because real paranormal phenomena jeopardize their career and life's work. Their livelihood is based on media exposure to sell books, raise money, and generate more media exposure, and as a result their influence is far greater than their qualifications in the field should warrant.
    ...
    People resist changing their world view because it requires admitting they were wrong or misled.​


    http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/p/articles-and-links-arranged-by-subject.html#articles_by_subject_science

    Why are so Many Scientists Pseudo-skeptics?
    http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2013/01/someone-in-internet-discussion-forum.html

    - Habitual reductionist thinking prevents scientists from accepting anything that they can't explain in terms of simpler phenomena, such as non-physical consciousness, qualia, and psychic phenomena.

    - Indoctrination into philosophical naturalism during science education.

    - Psychological attachment to the status quo scientific world view because it is the source of their status and livelihood.

    - Fear of alternative means of obtaining knowledge about the universe that might supplant science as the most important source of knowledge. If you can ask a psychic or a spirit, why would you need scientists?

    - Persecution of heretics. If Nobel prize winning physicist Brian Josephson is ostracized because of his interest in psi, what chance does an ordinary scientist have?
    Why Don't Psychopaths Believe in Dualism?
    http://ncu9np.blogspot.com/2015/05/pl9-tsc-2012-anthony-jack-why-dont.html
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2017
  3. K9!

    K9! New

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    I can remember the day I was offered the chance to attend graduate school. I was a 4th year science student given an assignment to make an assessment of a highly-cited paper by a well respected scientist. It was a paper that was state of the art when it was written, but since then newer data had been published that completely refuted the conclusions of the work. Surprisingly, it was still being cited (and used to support arguments) by people who I can only assume never actually read it because if they had, they would have easily seen how out-of-date the paper was. I was the only one in my class who argued that the paper was being mistakenly cited because it was now out-of-date based on newer information that was readily available from recent studies. No one else was willing to go against the conclusions of the original paper because the author was a famous scientist. I was shocked by how hard it was for people to go against authority. That kind of thinking holds back scientific progress.

    It seems to me that Dunning is also held back by an inability to judge the data and an over-reliance on authority figures.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2017
  4. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    I haven't listened to the interview yet, but in answer to the title, no, I don't think lifestyle scepticism is over. It offers a shortcut for every narcissist, shallow thinker and blowhard to consider himself serious and in step with educated men. Who's going to give up on that free pass to credibility without a fight?
     
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  5. Baccarat

    Baccarat New

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    Its being exposed more on Twitter, lots of real "skeptics" GOD I hate that word are getting hammered on twitter. It has slightly took a step back, but not much. Hate to be a jerk, but most people are stupid.....
     
  6. questioner

    questioner Member

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    It seems to me honest researchers basically have to go down two tracks. For example, let's say you are researching ancient aliens. You find quite a bit of compelling evidence that earth has been visited by UFOs. But until you actually have the UFO/alien contact, you have to consider other non-alien explanations. The same is true with life after death, telepathy, etc. If you don't consider so-called rational explanations, you start going down one track and contravening evidence comes in that you ignore or don't accept. In addition, your pet theory becomes a crutch and a worldview can be built around misinterpreted evidence.
     
  7. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    I guess "the skeptical thing" Alex is referring to really means pseudo-skepticism (PS). Is PS over? Nah, I don't think so. It starts from the implicit (rarely voiced) assumption that there is a set of things (under the "scientism" umbrella) that can't be questioned. A true skeptic questions everything; there is very little, if anything, he will accept as absolutely and incontrovertibly known. It is only through true skepticism that genuine progress in our degree of understanding can be made. Note I say "degree of understanding", rather than "knowledge", because, whilst it is possible to understand something better, it's very rarely possible to say we know something for sure.

    And where we think we can say we know something, quite often, it's through personal, subjective experience, of the kind that PS people love to (sometimes but not always validly), exclude from scientific consideration, hence the subliminally pejorative use of the term "anecdotal evidence". Doesn't matter how many people report an experience, if people don't want to accept it, it will be labelled anecdotal. OTOH, reports of medical experiences are often taken seriously: if enough people report adverse effects of drugs, anecdotes may suddenly become hard data.

    Why this distinction? Why can anecdotal evidence be taken as powerful in medicine, but not in respect of, say, NDEs? Well, it's because NDE's fall outside the PS people's set of things that can be allowed to be accepted at face value. Dunning expresses faux puzzlement that, if parapsychologist's work were truly accepted, why wouldn't scientists be flocking to do more parapsychological research? He's being disingenuous. He knows very well that they aren't doing that because they don't want to risk their careers. His confidence is backed up by those who control the acceptable content of science, not to mention its purse strings.

    I have a challenge for Dunning. What would be the results of a totally anonymous polling of scientists reveal about what they might believe privately about parapsychology? I don't know, of course, but it would be interesting to compare/contrast what those same scientists say they are prepared to say/not say in public. My suspicion is that there would be a marked difference, and that bubbling away in the "collective unconsciousness" of many scientists is the realisation that increasingly, many scientific paradigms are butting heads against a different reality. NeoDarwinism is faltering, for example. And in many other areas, PS people are fighting rearguard actions against heresies that increasingly are looking as if there might be something to them. Cold fusion, anti-CAGW, and the role of consciousness in QM are but a few other examples.

    So no, PS isn't yet over, and will continue as long as the establishment has control over the money, but at some point, the dam will start to crack and a deluge will follow. It's precisely because of the fear the establishment has about this that PS continues, even doubles down in the face of contrary evidence. Long before the deluge, most people will have sensed the way the wind is blowing and PS will already be dead, but meanwhile, it will fight on like a zombie as long as it possibly can. Nothing will actually change until the zombie, dead and dismembered, is finally incinerated and its ashes scattered on the dung heap of false history.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2017
  8. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Actually, I don't think this is what really happens. In reality, a psychology researcher (say) knows that if he tries to replicate or extend a precognition experiment, one of two things can happen:

    1) He confirms precognition, in which case his standing with his colleagues goes down, and research funding for future gets much harder to obtain.

    2) He is unable to reproduce the effect, and his colleagues shrug their shoulders and say "what did you expect?"

    Thus most researchers don't want to explore these fields.

    The experimenters who really do study these effects, absolutely have to consider conventional explanations, and guard against those effects. Take Rupert Sheldrake's experiments on dogs that sense when their owners are coming home.

    He removed the last 10 minutes of the video recordings of the dog to avoid conventional explanations such as smell or the sounds of a familiar car.

    He arranged for the owner to return home at a randomly generated signal, so she didn't know when she was to return until the last minute.

    He devised a blinded scheme to assess the video in which sections of video were assessed by someone who didn't know which section of the recording they were viewing.

    He even arranged for the owner not to come home on certain occasions, and stay in a hotel, to test if the dog began to anticipate the return simply as the evening went on.

    Or read about Dr. Julie Beischel's work on mediums, which used multiple layers of blinding to eliminate conventional explanations.

    David
     
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  9. Alex

    Alex New

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    yeah, but that assumes the field is level and that "good science" rules.
     
  10. Alex

    Alex New

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    I didn't exactly mean "over"... but over in that they are being pushed a bit to the fringe.

    I sure don't see many people self-identifying as "skeptics."
     
  11. Ian

    Ian New

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    Interesting interview, but I suppose predictable that when it came to discussing psi research it turns out he's completely ignorant (look up presentiment experiments before doing a science-y show on the topic? whatever for?). Also predictable that he was ignorant of the problems at JREF/TAM and the various criticisms that have been made of Randi, obviously the guy is fascinated (in the proper sense of the word) by the magician Randi and can't or won't look beyond that. Consequently not surprising he believes only stage magicians are capable of investigating psychic mediums (Julie Beischel, anyone?!).

    Thanks for doing this, Alex -- these guys have to be confronted.

    As to whether pathoscepticism is on the way out... as a mass movement, you may be right.
     
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  12. Chefjames

    Chefjames New

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    Man, these guys SO get my dander up. I personally, got "over" jerks like these a couple years ago. It was difficult. I had furious email exchanges with a couple "well known skeptics" and it soon became obvious that they are incapable of rational, reasoned debate. They will ALWAYS resort to ad hominem, straw man or some other invalidity.
    As for the pre-cog episode, he took 5 cases of synchronicity and wrote them off to the "law of large numbers". Here's a number he should consider; virtually every person on earth has had multiple occurrences of synchronicity. Those numbers cannot and will not be explained by the materialist, reductionist model. Done deal Brian.
     
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  13. Ian

    Ian New

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    In addition to the point you make, Chefjames, the point he makes about the "law of large numbers" is not a scientific statement but an ad hoc claim which nobody to my knowledge has made any attempt to test. I'm not even sure it could be tested in any serious way. It's all very Thomas Kuhn!
     
  14. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    We shouldn't underestimate the narcissism of scientists. A typical science trajectory begins with one of the brighter minds being rewarded by a teacher for knowing the correct answer. This puts him/her at odds with much of the class, who do not know the answer, and receive no such awards. The more self aware individuals learn to conceal their knowledge of the correct answer behind other strategies, and place analytical thinking in a broader social context, but a significant number are validated entirely by a Pavlovian response to data. By the time the individual gets to university and specialises in a discipline, the response-reward stratagem is valorised completely, including the promotion from student to teacher, and teacher to professor, ensuring the academy is based on an unequivocal and emotive approach to data transfer.

    This doesn't apply to every scientist by any means, and science the discipline is a blameless activity if decontextualized and rid of ideological assumptions. Nonetheless a significant number of scientists who attain the higher reaches of academia have no intellectual aspirations beyond those that reward their responses. Certainly none that might unpick or expose the system which validates them. Being bright, such individuals construct a web of counter arguments of varying validity, to defend their position. If this were not the case there would be more scientists like Dean Radin, men of wit and analytical thinking, prepared to engage with the methodology wherever it lead, and not foreclose it to a popular agenda.

    I've mixed with a sufficient number of academic scientists professionally, to know this appraisal is more than a caricature.
     
  15. Ian

    Ian New

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    You may well be correct about a "Pavlovian response": certainly the dopaminergic and social rewards for successful competition are at the heart of much great achievement in science and other areas; and I would of course agree that it's not necessarily sociopathic (in a loose sense) except insofar as the social reward becomes the goal, rather than exploration of a given field of learning (which still produces that dopamine high).

    As to construction of "a web of counter arguments", I didn't get the impression from Dunning that there was really much depth in respect of counter-arguments, merely an appeal to "mainstream science" (by which he meant "received wisdom"). I get the impression he doesn't get challenged very much, and I have no doubt he won't investigate any of the research mentioned by Alex. I seem to recall him saying words to the effect that he would be happy to look at it if Alex sent it to him... which is (curiously!) the opposite of the scientific curiosity that he was on the show to promote. A person genuinely curious about the subject would say "Gosh, I didn't know that. Let me write down that citation so I can look into it." Instead it's all, "Well, if it were true then the mainstream would support it." Almost the definition of a second-rate brain: one that assumes all the important questions have already been answered.

    I can't say I've known a lot of scientists over the years, as I've tended more to the humanities, but for the most part academics just try to keep up with the current and have no energy to push out ahead. Which is what we'd expect, I suppose: by definition there can only be a limited number of exceptional individuals.
     
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  16. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    That was one smokin' hot and well-written post. I tip my hat to you, sir. I'd even give you a smiley if the pesky things didn't seem to have disappeared on me.
     
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  17. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    By counter arguments I don't mean serious engagement with the challenges offered, but the usual stuff about anecdotes and the self correcting nature of science and its ability to supply the computer we're communicating on. The universal keep out fence material scientists employ to stop those outside from questioning those within.
    Of course they would, which is why their diffidence shouldn't be confused with objectivity, much less a search for truth.
    Me too, but I used to rub up against them in the day job. The personality types and their seamless identification with objective fidelity, and challenges to it as subjective and lacking in intellectual substance, force one to conclude there's more going on than at first appears. Hand waving isn't an appropriate response to anything and is most unworthy in a setting that prides itself on inclusion, but is common currency in dialogues with scientists, as here.
     
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  18. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    Of course they'd say I can't prove any of that, which is all people who get to say what proof means need to, but thanks for that. It's a kind of aware but infantilised state academic scientists function in, that allows them to stonewall vying data and bolster their self image while doing so.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2017
  19. K9!

    K9! New

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    I've known a few, but it's usually something they grow out of. Let's face it, it's easy to think you know everything when you are young. You can think you know all the facts, refuse to play well with others, and generally be very arrogant of your status in this world so long as it's just you on your own. But try doing that with a house full of kids to look after.
     
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  20. KindaGamey

    KindaGamey Member

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    It's not over yet, but I've seen plenty of internet people punching back and defending their right to believe or enjoy the testimony of others or even to make their own declarations about things that have happened to them. ("Who you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?") Even in places like reddit where skeptics and herd mentalities rule, instead of cowering when scolded by a skeptic, people will send it right back if the person seems to be a knee-jerk reductionist who can't escape their own worldview. Even the argument, "if you don't believe in UFOs, why are you on the UFO subreddit?" is pretty damning and can shut someone up right quick. The skeptics rose up and overthrew the religious bullies, became science bullies, now they're almost pitied because more and more people can see how they've basically chosen to all agree to a belief system (and it's a Newtonian one at that! i've been watching quantum discoveries and stuff like this lately... the chance that we perceive reality exactly as it is is scientifically ZERO. We might possibly live in a simulation/probability matrix that has redundancy and built in self-correction codes? Honestly it's difficult to even take reality seriously anymore. I've been feeling really floaty. This podcast with Joseph Cambray applying a self-organizing systems model to synchronicity also intrigued me greatly.)

    What's the skeptic motivation? They are addicted to telling other people that they're wrong. (Do we have the same motivation from the other side of the issue? Well I refuse to even look at that possibility. NEXT SUBJECT PLEASE!)

    The only really interesting thing I took away from this podcast was how many skeptical people still had weird stuff happen to them! Also, that they really seem to want it to be true they just can't allow themselves to care about it until it hits mainstream. Honestly it kind of reminds me of discovering in middle school that "being cool" was bullshit and it was just an arbitrarily decided public agreement that could easily be side-stepped or overwritten.

    (How do they not understand that these discoveries are being suppressed in the public conversation? Is there no other example/metaphor we can show a skeptic of the mainstream downplaying something scientifically evident that they now know in hindsight is true? -- I'm drawing a blank on a science example, but for example, the media and our education system will never criticize capitalism. It can get proven over and over that capitalism is unstable, but the media won't touch it and you will never get a 'mainstream consensus' when they control the megaphone.)

    We all know that Shermer article with the radio, I was so excited that day I couldn't believe it. That was the greatest thing to happen to skepticism since Phil Plait, Bad Astronomer, gave a speech to skeptics called "Don't Be a Dick."

    During the argument about precognition I just wanted Alex to say, "what if we scientifically discover some evidence of a type of retrocausality sending messages to the brain?" but I'm pretty sure Brian would say, "well then I will happily report that when it is accepted by the mainstream."

    I don't trust the mainstream as far as I can throw it. Hey, isn't that part of their shtick? Don't trust mainstream science articles, the masses collectively know nothing about science, masses get things massively wrong, but only collectives of scientists will have the real answers to what is and what is not approved science? Something off there.
     
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