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 Reunited with an old friend and promptly lost
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Wayward
New Member

Canada
5 Posts

Posted - 08/17/2009 :  13:48:56  Show Profile Send Wayward a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Hello

I'm glad to have found this forum. I joined because a thread here had a few answers for me I found via search.

My interest in skepticism started off in writing for tech-blogs and audio/video web-sites. As you might be aware the Audiophile world has a need for serious skepticism.

I recently made contact with an old friend. He and I have always been skeptical of the government and politically a bit on the fringe back when I was in University and prior. I've since become a lot more… shall we say conservative although no less open-minded. I feel I've got a pretty good handle on the conspiracy mindset, partly because I have taken some of those beliefs for granted in the past before truly re-examining them.

My old pal and I recently got together over beer and into the wee hours of the morning he took me on a long trek down the rabbit-hole of his nightmare world-view. I came away bothered because I know this guy is intelligent. Furthermore, he likes to think of himself as a “rebel” and unconventional, an intellectual pioneer of sorts.

My message to him: When bringing up 9-11 denial and New World Order/ Illuminati - you don't even realize how utterly conventional you sound.

It's sad. I just can't seem to reconcile that my old friend from way back, an intellectual confidant with which I have shared many social and political observations has bought into the likes of David Icke.

What flabbergasts me is it's not just Chem Trails or the belief that NATO is harvesting poppy/heroin in Afghanistan or that 9-11 was a government conspiracy or even that David Carradine was murdered because was investigating secret societies. He believes all of it!
I couldn't match his facts. I couldn't square off over beer that night because I hadn't boned up on my facts-from-the-Internet. But he could talk at great length about facts missed by the press and all these elaborate bits-and-pieces. He even invited me to ask him anything about because he could, with mere words, disprove any rebuttle.

All I could tell him from what bit of journalism training and experience I have that you don't just take a grainy picture from the Internet of a jet engine from the Pentagon plane-crash and decide that it's not big enough to *really* be from a jet engine. That's not proof!

But he seemed to believe if you string together a large enough family of equally unverified factoids and/or eye-witness accounts that they collectively somehow become proof.

Another friend advised me recently that it's technically a personality disorder that the believer suffers. The belief in the paranoid conspiracy has become part of how he sees himself, it's tied to his identity.

My heart is saddened. I feel like I regained an old friend then just as quickly lost him again. I don't know if I have the heart to argue with him. He really buys into a lot of new-age spiritual stuff too. He has not a skeptical bone in his body, no need to question his own assumptions or actively seek out a contrary perspective with which he can check himself. It's like he and this ‘group' as I have discovered seem to believe if they ‘feel it', it's fact.

I told him about using logic to diagram an argument and the BS-detector, fallacies what makes something a fact vs speculation, conjecture or theory. He is bothered by this ‘view' of science believing it's a bloated orthodoxy. Then he has the audacity to liken his beliefs with that of Galileo, a maverick of his time because he held fast to what he knew to be scientifically correct despite the orthodoxy of the church telling him he was incorrect.
I just didn't know where to begin.

I don't have the heart to tell him he's no rebel at all. In fact, he's bought into a pre-packaged belief-system-lite that is regularly traded on the floor of his local Wal-Mart. There is nothing "exclusive" about it. It's intellectually lazy and dishonest.

Well, I'm sure there are others who have seen this scenario. Thanks for reading. I'd lo

filthy
SFN Die Hard

USA
14408 Posts

Posted - 08/17/2009 :  14:06:39   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send filthy a Private Message  Reply with Quote
As stated, it is a personality disorder, one we've seen many times and indeed, are seeing even as we speak. Unless you are trained in one of the fields of mental health, there is little you can do. Arguing with him is an exercise in futility, as he will believe none of it however well you support your side with fact.

Beyond that, I really don't know what to tell you. I'm sorry your reunion went so poorly.

Welcome to SFN, Wayward.




"What luck for rulers that men do not think." -- Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

"If only we could impeach on the basis of criminal stupidity, 90% of the Rethuglicans and half of the Democrats would be thrown out of office." ~~ P.Z. Myres


"The default position of human nature is to punch the other guy in the face and take his stuff." ~~ Dude

Brother Boot Knife of Warm Humanitarianism,

and Crypto-Communist!

Edited by - filthy on 08/17/2009 14:08:53
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13457 Posts

Posted - 08/17/2009 :  14:36:20   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Wayward:
I don't have the heart to tell him he's no rebel at all. In fact, he's bought into a pre-packaged belief-system-lite that is regularly traded on the floor of his local Wal-Mart. There is nothing "exclusive" about it. It's intellectually lazy and dishonest.

Well, I'm sure there are others who have seen this scenario. Thanks for reading. I'd love to learn how you'd deal with my situation.


First off, welcome to SFN, Wayward.

My brother is a major new ager. I have tried from every direction I know of to point out critical fallacies in his thinking. All to no avail. I'm not suggesting that you stop trying. But there may come a time when you must shrug and let it go. We skeptics will not reach everyone. True Believers are all too often immune to any logic that does not conform to their preconceived notions of how the world works. They work from a defensive certainty that often turns their beliefs into a dogmatic acceptance of nonsense. While they may say otherwise, knowledge is not the goal. Comfort is the goal. Having a special knowledge about those who would attempt to control us (choose a conspiracy) relieves some of the powerlessness, in the face of power, that we all feel to some extent.
Where critical thinking comes in is when we are able to evaluate the evidence for whatever value it may have.

Our strength comes from our promotion of critical thinking, and that we are a growing movement. We aren't going to get to everyone, but again, we are growing in numbers. In order to not become frustrated as a skeptic, it's often best to look at the bigger picture.

What are we trying to accomplish and how best should we go about doing that?

Debates are fine with individuals if you are up for it. But it's a rare case when logic over a lack of reason prevails at the individual level.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 08/17/2009 :  14:51:30   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Wayward said:
I just didn't know where to begin.

You should pin him down on one of his "theories". Invite him to a written debate via email (or if he doesn't mind getting thrashed publicly invite him here).

It is a common verbal "debate" tactic to throw out a dozen claims as rapidly as you can and claim victory when your opponent can't answer every one of them. This tactic isn't unique to the conspiracy nuts either, its common to many different areas of irrational belief.

If you can conduct a written debate though you have a chance and time to respond to each point in detail, and time to research things you don't know a lot about.

If your friend is as bad as you indicate, don't get your hopes up that you will change his mind.

Written debate is the way to go. Don't be suprised when he changes the subject and refuses to acknowledge his errors after you totally destroy his arguments though.


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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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 08/17/2009 :  17:17:28   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Welcome to Skeptic Friends Network, Wayward.

Good luck with your old friend. My own brother is pretty much the same way, in being one of those "eclectic" woo-woos. Though I hate having to do things this way, we have both learned to stay on the few matters we agree upon when communicating. I've learned that he's not going to change, and I'm not going to start believing all his woo, from Bigfoot to 9/11 Truth, or from UFO aliens to "orbs" and "rods."

Sometimes, if you care for someone enough (and if they'll cooperate), you have to restrict your conversations to safe subjects. It's either that or outright avoidance.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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Simon
SFN Regular

USA
1992 Posts

Posted - 08/17/2009 :  20:31:35   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Simon a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Welcome to SFN Wayward.

As for your friend, I don't think you can change his opinions.
Sure, if you keep discussing with him and opening up his claims bare there is always a chance that he will start considering them more critically. But it is, in my opinion, pretty remote. Somewhere, these beliefs make him happy, or, at least, serve some purposes. Maybe to feel smart and superior to the sheepish and ignorant masses, especially if, for some reason, he is not comfortable in social setting.

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
Carl Sagan - 1996
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Wayward
New Member

Canada
5 Posts

Posted - 08/18/2009 :  10:31:31   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Wayward a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Thank you for the kind responses.

The old friend in question recently went through a lot of life-turmoil. His dad died in a tragic way I shouldn't talk about and he's had failed relationships since. But through it all he has fought for custody of his kids and one step-kid because he knew she wouldn't have a chance otherwise. His kids are great! Well mannered, respectful and imaginative (like their dad). He's such a good guy in every other way except for that bizarre nightmare world he believes in.

I wonder how much of his paranoia is related to events in his life that are beyond his control. If so, maybe he's savable. But it's tough to argue with seeming like I'm being insulting.

We went through a pretty heavy Chem-Trails argument and I really let him have it via open Facebook posts. He seems to take a good argument well. I am tempted to bring it up again and go for another few rounds with other topics. I realize I may not ever change his mind but it might be an educational experience for me and hopefully for him. Perhaps I'll use your knowledge in this forum for advice and maybe even reprint some of his retorts to me. I'm sure you guys have heard it all.
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 08/18/2009 :  11:00:54   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Invite him over here!

This forum tends to treat most people politely until they digress into incivility first.


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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Wayward
New Member

Canada
5 Posts

Posted - 08/18/2009 :  11:16:55   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Wayward a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'd be embarrased to invite him - having mentioned him this way already and brought up his personal stuff. Perhaps if I edited my own posts that talked about him I'll drop him the URL and ask him to come on and throw out some arguments. :)
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Dr. Mabuse
Septic Fiend

Sweden
9666 Posts

Posted - 08/18/2009 :  22:11:02   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Dr. Mabuse an ICQ Message Send Dr. Mabuse a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Wayward
Perhaps if I edited my own posts...

If you do, I don't think anyone here would think less of you. It's for a good cause.

Dr. Mabuse - "When the going gets tough, the tough get Duct-tape..."
Dr. Mabuse whisper.mp3

"Equivocation is not just a job, for a creationist it's a way of life..." Dr. Mabuse

Support American Troops in Iraq:
Send them unarmed civilians for target practice..
Collateralmurder.
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sailingsoul
SFN Addict

2830 Posts

Posted - 08/20/2009 :  13:47:37   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send sailingsoul a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Greeting and welcome to the forum. I don't think I'm going out on a limb if I say we all know what your going through. When I first came came across the skeptic community I was elated. That joy was cut short when I found out most people (almost everyone I know) are happier when there deluding themselves and don't want to know the truth. They're are happiest when talking to a fellow believer, of any fantasy they have. I know of your despair. Sorry I'm of little or no help on this matter, other than saying, it does suck.SS
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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 08/21/2009 :  00:01:55   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I think it is just as important to cushion our expressed skepticism as it is to express it in the first place. Especially with people we know well and care about since our relationships have value in-of-themselves, and also because you'll never change someone's mind if they think you are a jerk or if you make them feel intellectually inferior.

Skepticism is often annoying. It is absolutely necessary for getting as close as we can to the truth about reality, of course. But on a personal, emotional level, I think we have to admit that it can be annoying. Even most of the best skeptics have had something that they accepted without sufficient evidence, often without even realizing that we take that thing for granted. And then a day comes when that thing is voiced and some critical thinker asks for evidence to back the claim up. It is annoying. Practiced skeptics who highly prize critical thinking are better at pushing away our annoyed feelings, feeling gratitude for the challenge, and then dealing with our own lapses in critical thinking. But people who are less practiced and who haven't consciously decided that skepticism is a virtue are more likely to let their feelings on the matter reign. So IMHO the best way to deal with people is to be highly aware of and sensitive to their emotions, and to appeal to them both emotionally and intellectually.

It's also good to remember that skepticism is a virtue, but it isn't the only virtue. Even people who are very poor critical thinkers often have other personal characteristics which make them valuable friends and acquaintances. And many people who hold really crazy ideas live their lives in ways which are highly productive and compassionate.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 08/21/2009 :  00:14:59   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Kicking them in the intellectual gibblies(its a euphemism, just think about it) is my standard approach. It works sometimes. I do not feel any need to be constrained by another person's value system (like granting kindness as a default) when they say or do things that directly violate mine. I think we have a moral obligation to believe(in the strong sense of the word, as in think to be true) only what evidence can support.

I find it offensive when people persist in believing something that is directly contradicted by evidence.

It is never kind to tell a person they are wrong, it is confrontational no matter what. An honest person will thank you though.


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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Simon
SFN Regular

USA
1992 Posts

Posted - 08/21/2009 :  08:10:45   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Simon a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by marfknox

I think it is just as important to cushion our expressed skepticism as it is to express it in the first place. Especially with people we know well and care about since our relationships have value in-of-themselves, and also because you'll never change someone's mind if they think you are a jerk or if you make them feel intellectually inferior.

Skepticism is often annoying. It is absolutely necessary for getting as close as we can to the truth about reality, of course. But on a personal, emotional level, I think we have to admit that it can be annoying. Even most of the best skeptics have had something that they accepted without sufficient evidence, often without even realizing that we take that thing for granted. And then a day comes when that thing is voiced and some critical thinker asks for evidence to back the claim up. It is annoying. Practiced skeptics who highly prize critical thinking are better at pushing away our annoyed feelings, feeling gratitude for the challenge, and then dealing with our own lapses in critical thinking. But people who are less practiced and who haven't consciously decided that skepticism is a virtue are more likely to let their feelings on the matter reign. So IMHO the best way to deal with people is to be highly aware of and sensitive to their emotions, and to appeal to them both emotionally and intellectually.

It's also good to remember that skepticism is a virtue, but it isn't the only virtue. Even people who are very poor critical thinkers often have other personal characteristics which make them valuable friends and acquaintances. And many people who hold really crazy ideas live their lives in ways which are highly productive and compassionate.



Sagan had a nice write-up on that subject by the end of his 'Demon haunted world'.


Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
Carl Sagan - 1996
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Gorgo
SFN Die Hard

USA
5310 Posts

Posted - 08/21/2009 :  08:32:25   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Gorgo a Private Message  Reply with Quote

It's also good to remember that skepticism is a virtue, but it isn't the only virtue.


Outstanding. Thanks for that.

I know the rent is in arrears
The dog has not been fed in years
It's even worse than it appears
But it's alright-
Jerry Garcia
Robert Hunter



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astropin
SFN Regular

USA
970 Posts

Posted - 08/21/2009 :  09:04:37   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send astropin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Does his woo-woo thinking actually affect his decision making? Does he not get his kids vaccinated due to his beliefs? Does he not take a certain job, or buy certain food due to his beliefs? I ask because if this is just stuff he spouts off about but takes absolutely no action on then it might just be easier to let it go.

I would rather face a cold reality than delude myself with comforting fantasies.

You are free to believe what you want to believe and I am free to ridicule you for it.

Atheism:
The result of an unbiased and rational search for the truth.

Infinitus est numerus stultorum
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