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Giltwist
Skeptic Friend

USA
69 Posts

Posted - 06/09/2005 :  18:33:39  Show Profile  Visit Giltwist's Homepage  Send Giltwist an AOL message  Send Giltwist an ICQ Message  Send Giltwist a Yahoo! Message Send Giltwist a Private Message
Before anyone takes this the wrong way, I dig skepticism. It's my personal philosophy that there are no answers without questions. Even if there were answers without questions, the answers still wouldn't make sense (i.e. 42)

That said, the primary skepticism in which I partake is that of the parapsychological variety. One of the things that I notice as a common theme is the philosophy of "if it can be faked, it is as good as fake." This seems very counterintuitive to me. I can't think of anything that couldn't be faked given enough time, money, and acting ability. My guess is this thinking stems from the apparant lack of repeatability with parapsyschological studies. In other words, if enough credible people agree to it, then it couldn't be fake because they wouldn't ALL lie. Well, I hardly need to point out that one need not lie to fall short of telling the truth.

I guess where this is all leading is in the same vein as some of the false memory articles floating about. I sorta see many skeptics losing sight of the one true Doubt, so to speak. What if the set of folks that typically make wild pseudo-scientific claims are disjoint from the set of folks that might actually be qualified to make those claims? Goodness knows I wouldn't want to be the one on the operating table getting poked and prodded to figure out why I could, for example, seriously whomp the Zener card test.

Then again, maybe the skeptics have been stereotyped in their understanding of how such things work. Perhaps the concepts of things like precognizance have been made out to be far more fantastical than they need be. If it's a deterministic universe, you'd think that the human brain (the best computer known to man, I might add) might be able to predict near-future results simply based upon a grasp of those underlying deterministic laws. I believe such a practice is referred to as psychohistory?

Annnnyway. Enough rambling. I'm using the context of parapsychology here because it's relevant to me. But it seems like it would be simple to generalize it to things like physics. Einstein and Heisenburg certainly didn't agree all the time (i.e. uncertainty principle vs. "god does not play dice") and they were both respected physicists.

G.

Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 06/09/2005 :  18:43:57   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message
quote:
If it's a deterministic universe, you'd think that the human brain (the best computer known to man, I might add) might be able to predict near-future results simply based upon a grasp of those underlying deterministic laws.


Your brain CAN predict near-future results. It is the reason you can move through your house without comming to serious harm, it is why you can (more or less for most people) catch objects thrown to you. Your brain can also predict far future results with great accuracy, if you train yourself in physics. See the recent landings of spacecraft on asteriods for an example.

None of which has anything to do with the universe being deterministic or not.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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Giltwist
Skeptic Friend

USA
69 Posts

Posted - 06/09/2005 :  18:49:00   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Giltwist's Homepage  Send Giltwist an AOL message  Send Giltwist an ICQ Message  Send Giltwist a Yahoo! Message Send Giltwist a Private Message
quote:

None of which has anything to do with the universe being deterministic or not.


Well, if the laws of physics work and the universe isn't deterministic, how do they work? Don't they pretty much assume that future results are determined by present conditions?

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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
25997 Posts

Posted - 06/09/2005 :  19:14:40   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Giltwist

That said, the primary skepticism in which I partake is that of the parapsychological variety. One of the things that I notice as a common theme is the philosophy of "if it can be faked, it is as good as fake." This seems very counterintuitive to me. I can't think of anything that couldn't be faked given enough time, money, and acting ability.
And I can't think of any public skeptics who make such broad claims. There are plenty who say, "if it's easy to fake, it's probably fake" (James Randi in regards to Uri Geller's spoon-bending comes to mind, though he's also got video), but none I can think of who make such bold assertions as you claim, even by implication.

So, is skepticism really as bad as you think, or are you simply stereotyping the skeptics as big, bad, closed-minded debunkers?

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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Giltwist
Skeptic Friend

USA
69 Posts

Posted - 06/09/2005 :  19:22:39   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Giltwist's Homepage  Send Giltwist an AOL message  Send Giltwist an ICQ Message  Send Giltwist a Yahoo! Message Send Giltwist a Private Message
quote:
So, is skepticism really as bad as you think, or are you simply stereotyping the skeptics as big, bad, closed-minded debunkers?


Goodness no. Like I said, skepticism is vital. But I think it's got some dangerous pitfalls. You know, that you could be TOO skeptical? Also, I wouldn't say all, but I would say that of skeptics, what I see does tend to fall under that category. It's a problem with mass media, really, but that's another conversation, I think.

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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
25997 Posts

Posted - 06/09/2005 :  19:42:08   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Giltwist

Goodness no. Like I said, skepticism is vital. But I think it's got some dangerous pitfalls. You know, that you could be TOO skeptical?
Yeah, we tend to call that "being cynical," though.
quote:
Also, I wouldn't say all, but I would say that of skeptics, what I see does tend to fall under that category.
Can you quantify "what you see?" What percentage of skeptics are we talking about?
quote:
It's a problem with mass media, really, but that's another conversation, I think.
No, it'll fit fine here if the mass media is creating the impression you see, which appears to be one of the premises of your argument. After all, if your premise is incorrect, there's not much more to discuss, is there?

As far as the mass media goes, public skeptics who appear on shows in order to provide "balance" against those who support the paranormal, regularly complain about hack jobs done on their statements in editing. When someone like James Randi sits down for an hour of video taping, but winds up on screen at air time for a total of 37 seconds (as happened recently), something is indeed very wrong. If your impression of skeptics comes from the mass media, it is highly likely that it is stereotyped, because that's what the producers of the shows want to air: stereotypically grumpy nay-sayers. The believers make the networks money, not the skeptics.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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Giltwist
Skeptic Friend

USA
69 Posts

Posted - 06/09/2005 :  19:50:22   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Giltwist's Homepage  Send Giltwist an AOL message  Send Giltwist an ICQ Message  Send Giltwist a Yahoo! Message Send Giltwist a Private Message
quote:
f your impression of skeptics comes from the mass media, it is highly likely that it is stereotyped


Yeah, you are probably right, which is why I took the time to ask questions instead of just assuming you were all out to make everyone feel like idiots.

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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 06/09/2005 :  19:55:18   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message
quote:
Well, if the laws of physics work and the universe isn't deterministic, how do they work?


If the entire universe operated by strict Newtonian physics, then you might have a point. Newtonian physics works just fine only in certain conditions(which is almost any condition that we are likely to experience personally). When you get into extremely small mass and velocities approaching light, Newtonian physics no longer apply.

To answer your question.... I dunno. Physics isn't my field, and my undterstanding of it is less_than_rudimentary in professional terms. I know enough to recognize the misuse of logic in your question though.

quote:
Like I said, skepticism is vital. But I think it's got some dangerous pitfalls.


Name some. Don't just generalize like that.

quote:
You know, that you could be TOO skeptical? Also, I wouldn't say all, but I would say that of skeptics, what I see does tend to fall under that category.


Are you possibly confusing cynicism with skepticism?


Also... after browsing your site, and reading through several threads on your forum I'm not convinced that you are advocating skepticism in the sense of doubt about unevidenced claims.

At risk of insulting you (not my intention) the place appears largely a haven for the credulous.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13462 Posts

Posted - 06/09/2005 :  20:01:05   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Giltwist

quote:
So, is skepticism really as bad as you think, or are you simply stereotyping the skeptics as big, bad, closed-minded debunkers?


Goodness no. Like I said, skepticism is vital. But I think it's got some dangerous pitfalls. You know, that you could be TOO skeptical? Also, I wouldn't say all, but I would say that of skeptics, what I see does tend to fall under that category.

I do seem to reference this essay almost weekly…


The Burden of Skepticism


quote:
Carl Sagan:
It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas. Obviously those two modes of thought are in some tension. But if you are able to exercise only one of these modes, whichever one it is, you're in deep trouble.

If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. You never learn anything new. You become a crotchety old person convinced that nonsense is ruling the world. (There is, of course, much data to support you.) But every now and then, maybe once in a hundred cases, a new idea turns out to be on the mark, valid and wonderful. If you are too much in the habit of being skeptical about everything, you are going to miss or resent it, and either way you will be standing in the way of understanding and progress.

On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish the useful as from the worthless ones. If all ideas have equal validity then you are lost, because then, it seems to me, no ideas have any validity at all.

Some ideas are better than others. The machinery for distinguishing them is an essential tool in dealing with the world and especially in dealing with the future. And it is precisely the mix of these two modes of thought that is central to the success of science.


The reason I have quoted Sagan here is that on being “too” skeptical, Giltwist, I agree with you. The thing is, my experience with skeptics is obviously not the same as what you have experienced. I really don't know a skeptic who would not agree with the above quote. And more to the point, understand that critical thinking is a tool, and not a belief system.

Having said that, I believe the scientific method and critical thinking are the best games in town if what you seek is knowledge about how the natural world works, or doesn't work. Of course, no method is infallible.
We do the best we can with what is available to us. That is why all conclusions are tentative…


Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Giltwist
Skeptic Friend

USA
69 Posts

Posted - 06/09/2005 :  20:14:17   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Giltwist's Homepage  Send Giltwist an AOL message  Send Giltwist an ICQ Message  Send Giltwist a Yahoo! Message Send Giltwist a Private Message
quote:
I know enough to recognize the misuse of logic in your question though.


I guess I'll have to take your word for that. I never did get the paradox about the cat in the box ;)

quote:

Name some. Don't just generalize like that.


Well, there's a total lack of certainty in anything beyond the self. (solipsism, right?) I had this friend who was a total Truth-junkie. He wouldn't believe ANYTHING unless he himself really sat down and did it.

quote:

Are you possibly confusing cynicism with skepticism?


Yes, possibly, would you define the difference for me?

quote:
At risk of insulting you (not my intention) the place appears largely a haven for the credulous.


No, don't worry about it at all. You are absolutely right. However, I think that to find a wallflower, you have to go to a party. I figure if I create an esoterically-oriented environment, eventually I'll attract people who can help me find the answers I want. You'll notice I don't have there any intense conversations like the one's I've had here tonight.

A lot of that sort of stuff is misconstrued on a regular basis. One of the diamonds in the rough that I have found is this idea about demons. Essentially, the thought is that so-called demons are often, if not always, really just manifestations of repressed emotions. That makes sense to me because I know we ALL probably bottle stuff up. I can see how if you left that bottled up long enough your body would do crazy things. I know someone IRL who has a stress disorder where little nickel sized sections of her hair spontaneously fall out when she has a lot of stress.

Now, if you were to ask me about some of the other stuff on my site, I'd tell you I think it's mostly malarky with a grain of truth. Unfortunately, I do sorta feel like I have to exploit the "true believers" at time to get at the underlying truth to the belief. So I can see why you'd get that impression. Of course, I also tell people not to stop believing in something just because someone else says that it's a false belief. In that respect, I'm a bit of a relativist.


*EDIT* Kil, I like that quote. That's exactly what I'm talking about.

Edited by - Giltwist on 06/09/2005 20:16:05
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 06/09/2005 :  21:39:51   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message
quote:
cyn·i·cism n.

An attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others.


quote:
skep·ti·cism also scep·ti·cism n.

A doubting or questioning attitude or state of mind; dubiety.


Definitions courtesy of Dictionary.com

quote:
I guess I'll have to take your word for that.


The logical issue with your statement is the implication that all laws of physics follow strict determinism. Some of the "laws" are based on probability. (the whole cat in the box thing)


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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Boron10
Religion Moderator

USA
1264 Posts

Posted - 06/09/2005 :  23:16:02   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Boron10 a Private Message
Giltwist,

To address your questions of scientific determinism: I see from your bio that you have studied mathematics. Quantum mechanics states (and, incidentally, it is the most successful scientific theory: that is, it has the most predictive power and accuracy) that all particles are described by a probability wavefunction. Since the position and motion of all particles can only successfully be described by a probability, there is no determinism in physics.

Now, to the Cat in the Box paradox: This is usually called, "Schroedinger's Cat." This website explains it as well as I could, but I'll go ahead and try anyway.

A cat is in a box. Also in the box is a radiation detector hooked up to a poison gas tube, and a very low-activity radioactive gas. We shall say that during the course of an hour, there is a 50% chance that the radioactive gas will cause the radiation detector to peg, causing the poison to be released, killing the cat.

After an hour, the cat has a 50% chance of being alive or dead. Which one is it? Assuming the box is soundproof, etc. we have no way to tell. Thus, the cat is assumed to be both alive and dead until the box is opened and the results of the experiment are directly observed.
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 06/09/2005 :  23:28:04   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message
Schroedinger and a few others were not happy with the predictions made by quantum physics.

Bell's inequality, now proven true by experimantation, was intended (by Bell) to demonstrate the absurdity of quantum mechanics.

Einstein's famous quote about god not playing dice.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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woolytoad
Skeptic Friend

313 Posts

Posted - 06/10/2005 :  01:31:05   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send woolytoad a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Boron10After an hour, the cat has a 50% chance of being alive or dead. Which one is it? Assuming the box is soundproof, etc. we have no way to tell. Thus, the cat is assumed to be both alive and dead until the box is opened and the results of the experiment are directly observed.



The paradox being that the outcome is determined by an observation. Hence by making the observation we cannot know what would have happened had we not made the observation.
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 06/10/2005 :  02:08:53   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by woolytoad
The paradox being that the outcome is determined by an observation. Hence by making the observation we cannot know what would have happened had we not made the observation.

Well, "determined" and "known" are two different things entirely. I agree that the odds are 50% and the cat's fate is a result of uncertainty, but I fail to see how an observer plays any role beyond observing which outcome already actually occured.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 06/10/2005 02:15:43
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
25997 Posts

Posted - 06/10/2005 :  04:56:51   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by H. Humbert

Well, "determined" and "known" are two different things entirely. I agree that the odds are 50% and the cat's fate is a result of uncertainty, but I fail to see how an observer plays any role beyond observing which outcome already actually occured.
It's a math thing, H. The "superposition of states" with a live and dead cat at the same time doesn't actually occur, it only exists when examining the equations that describe the state of the cat. Obviously, there are a lot of map/terrain problems involved in classic QM thought experiments.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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