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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 02/10/2013 :  13:19:05   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil

Did you read the article, Humbert?
Not yet in its entirety, no. But I'm familiar with the issues under discussion.


"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
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13467 Posts

Posted - 02/10/2013 :  17:54:58   [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
Humbert:
I think that's entirely backwards, and probably a large source of our disagreement. It is my contention that science is in fact an extension of skepticism. Specifically, science is skepticism applied to empirical matters.

Sometimes the skepticism comes first, and then it's also applied later during peer review and criticism by other scientists. But sometimes a hypothesis is tested because it holds promise. Science employs skepticism because it must. But the quest for knowledge about the natural world is not at all necessarily motivated by doubt. And I'm not sure why you think that it is. Skepticism is a tool of science, and not the other way around.

I also don't get why either way of looking at science would be a source of our disagreement. Please explain.
Humbert:
The scientific skeptics seem to be alleging we cannot ever come to any conclusions about anything, that all we can ever say is some claim is supported while some others are not.

Where do you get that? All conclusions are held on a tentative basis. Just like you said.
Humbert:
It doesn't tell us how to deal with unevidenced claims.

Sure it does. If the claim is extraordinary, we doubt the claim. That is dealing with it. We warn people to stay away from homeopathic medicine even though we can't prove that there is no memory in the water. We can only deduce it by the lack of efficacy and the silliness of the claim. Efficacy is testable. No medicine in the drug is testable. But the memory part is not.
Humbert:
Skepticism, if it is to be of any practical value, must be a means of evaluating claims for the purpose of coming to tentative conclusions.

Indeed. So you think that scientific skepticism is saying something different?
Humbert:
And that's entirely the problem with scientific skepticism as it is presented, it doesn't allow us to conclude anything. It's useless, essentially.

If that's what you think, you are misunderstanding what scientific skepticism is and does. Hell... If I didn't know you better I would accuse you of building an outrageous strawman.

I think you might be confused about my previous comment about conclusions not being skeptical. Had you added the word "tentative" I wouldn't have objected to what you said. Serious doubt and coming to a tentative conclusion are sometimes the same thing. I strongly doubt that ESP exists. Enough so to warn people to not see a psychic. But I can't prove that ESP doesn't exist at this time. I can only conclude that it's very unlikely and probably false.

And you know... Scientific skepticism has a long history of debunking claims, warning people and even saving lives. So the idea that nothing is concluded and it's "useless, essentially," is... Well... I dunno. You seem to have your own personal version of what scientific skepticism is. It's version that I don't recognize.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13467 Posts

Posted - 02/10/2013 :  18:35:47   [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
I'll get to your longer post later Dave. But this:
Skepticism is necessary for science. Science is not necessary for skepticism.

Sure. If you want to de-brand scientific skepticism and use a dictionary definition, you're right. Do we really want to do that? While were at it, a theory is just conjecture by some definitions. But it isn't conjecture in a scientific context. You keep saying that things like feminism should be included if the fringe ideas with regard to feminism can be tested empirically. That it can be scientific. I'm okay with that. In fact, that isn't so different from Michelle's and my attempt to support the possibility that repression happens, regardless of the FMSF claims. So what is it that you want?

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26013 Posts

Posted - 02/10/2013 :  20:47:31   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil

Sure. If you want to de-brand scientific skepticism and use a dictionary definition, you're right. Do we really want to do that?
This semantic argument is getting weird. You want people to assume that "skepticism" means only "scientific skepticism," but you're unwilling to assume that "conclusions" (in a skeptical context) means "tentative conclusions."

If "skepticism" can mean only "scientific skepticism," then I am not a skeptic because I do not have the resources to engage in skeptical investigations. I'm not even one of the amateurs that Loxton describes, I am a mere wanna-be scientific skeptic and an advocate for skepticism of all forms. I'll try to get in the habit of using the term "unscientific skepticism" to refer to what I do and thus differentiate myself from the real skeptics.
While were at it, a theory is just conjecture by some definitions. But it isn't conjecture in a scientific context.
Fact is, when people use the word "theory" incorrectly in the context of science, we correct them. We don't just assume the unqualified word means only "scientific theory." We understand that words can have more than one definition in English, and often engage in over-cautious verbosity to ensure that our intended meaning is clear.

Also, does the scientific skepticism movement really have something to lose by being more precise in its use of words?! From a PR point-of-view, I suppose it's convenient to allow people to be lazy and not learn the distinction. Really swells the ranks of the movement when gazillions of people call themselves "skeptics" who've never run a test on anything.
You keep saying that things like feminism should be included if the fringe ideas with regard to feminism can be tested empirically. That it can be scientific. I'm okay with that. In fact, that isn't so different from Michelle's and my attempt to support the possibility that repression happens, regardless of the FMSF claims. So what is it you want?
As someone who has suddenly found himself kicked out of the skeptics' tent, what I would like to see inside it really doesn't matter.

Bitter? You bet. Mostly about the double-standard. Conflated terms is a "brand" which should be protected, but when other people do it (who aren't even actually doing so) it's a threat to the "brand." If defending that hypocrisy is required to be a part of the "skeptic movement," then count me out. I have no need to be a member of a group that would insist that I compromise my principles in order to do what I do in support of that group's ideals.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
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Why not question something for a change?
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13467 Posts

Posted - 02/10/2013 :  21:27:57   [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
Dave:
As someone who has suddenly found himself kicked out of the skeptics' tent, what I would like to see inside it really doesn't matter.

No one has thrown you out of anything. You support scientific skepticism. You just want to expand the scope. Some of us like it where it is. So we don't agree on some things. You have made too many arguments based in science to not know the value of scientific skepticism. Who has thrown you out?

This is difficult because some of us feel protective of the mission that is embodied in scientific skepticism. We want people to know what is and what isn't scientific skepticism. We don't want people to just label it all as skepticism without knowing what the hell they are talking about.

You have argued the case that there are testable claims in these other areas, and then you say skepticism doesn't need science. Okay. I'm confused. That's why I asked you what you want?

How have I been hypocritical? Do I want to limit the scope of what we call skepticism so that there is no confusion? Yeah. But I get that there are other ways of approaching claims. (Read our mission statement. The one that we both wrote.) I do it here at SFN myself. There are many claims that I have debated without worrying about whether I'm employing scientific skepticism in my objection to the claim. I argue that there is no god, for example. But strictly speaking, that's not sci-skepticism. So what do we do? How do we go about knowing what is what if we don't define what is what? And what do we do with newbies and atheists who wouldn't know sci skepticism if it hit them in the head, but call themselves skeptics even as they argue for anti vax, homeopathic and other pseudo scientific ideas?

Maybe you don't see those people. I see them all the time. So what now? I really want to know?

You are on one side of a debate over scope, and I am on the other side. We both promote science and skepticism. So you are now bitter. Great.

But again, you said several times that a sci case could be made for fringe claims coming out of those who attack feminism and I keep saying fine. Go for it. Then you say skepticism doesn't need science and that leaves me asking again, what do you want?

Don't brush that question aside. And you know... I would prefer not being called a hypocrite. I don't think I am being hypocritical and I haven't accused you or even the supporters of the "widen the scope" movement of being hypocritical. Just wrong, like when Myers called atheism a subset of skepticism. Give me a break, huh?

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 02/10/2013 :  21:32:50   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil
Sure it does. If the claim is extraordinary, we doubt the claim. That is dealing with it.
Ok, but that's all atheism is. Doubting the claim of theism.

Why does scientific skepticism endorse doubting the claims of homeopaths but not of priests? I do not see anything that I would call a consistent rationale being applied.

If that's what you think, you are misunderstanding what scientific skepticism is and does. Hell... If I didn't know you better I would accuse you of building an outrageous strawman.
I'm trying to point out what I see as inconsistencies. I obviously do think scientific skepticism is in the business of evaluating claims without evidence, which is why I find it so exasperating when some try to pretend religion is a special case. It's no different than anything else they tackle. The arguments being made to keep religion off-limits strikes me as nothing more than sophistry.

I'd be much more comfortable if they just admitted that they have no other reason not to go after religion other than their own marketing interests. Protecting the brand, as you say. At least then we could have a discussion over whether it was sound policy.


"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 02/10/2013 21:34:45
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13467 Posts

Posted - 02/10/2013 :  21:40:28   [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
Humbert:
Why does scientific skepticism endorse doubting the claims of homeopaths but not of priests? I do not see anything that I would call a consistent rationale being applied.

Religion doesn't get a pass. Specific claims are tested and debunked. It happens a lot. But the claim that there is a god is not amendable to testing anymore than memory water is. So we test those claims that are testable, in both homeopathy and religion.

On the other hand, I'm an atheist. I even argue for the non existence of god sometimes. It's just not sci-skepticism when I'm doing it.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13467 Posts

Posted - 02/10/2013 :  22:06:16   [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
Dave:
Also, does the scientific skepticism movement really have something to lose by being more precise in its use of words?! From a PR point-of-view, I suppose it's convenient to allow people to be lazy and not learn the distinction. Really swells the ranks of the movement when gazillions of people call themselves "skeptics" who've never run a test on anything.

Sarcasm noted.

So we both want the terms defined in a way that everyone understands what they are talking about. I thought sci-skepticism was pretty well defined. The idea isn't to confuse. The idea is to not confuse by keeping the scope limited.

And yeah. Most of us are amateurs. So?

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26013 Posts

Posted - 02/10/2013 :  22:33:52   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil

You support scientific skepticism. You just want to expand the scope.
No, no, no!

I have no intention of expanding the scope of scientific skepticism. It examines scientifically testable claims in as scientific a manner as practical. There's nothing wrong with that.

The skeptical movement, however, which I thought included forms of skepticism other than scientific skepticism, is what I thought should be expanded.

Do not conflate the specific activity with the movement. Especially since the movement is not itself a scientifically testable entity, but is instead purely political.
Some of us like it where it is. So we don't agree on some things. You have made too many arguments based in science to not know the value of scientific skepticism. Who has thrown you out?
I was just mirroring your idea of years ago that pointing out or criticizing Hal Bidlack's (for example) lack of skepticism towards his religious ideas was an attempt to kick him out of the skeptics' club. A rhetorical device on my part.
This is difficult because some of us feel protective of the mission that is embodied in scientific skepticism. We want people to know what is and what isn't scientific skepticism. We don't want people to just label it all as skepticism without knowing what the hell they are talking about.
Then don't call it skepticism. Call it scientific skepticism. You'll get no argument from anyone that being pro-feminism (for example) is a scientific conclusion, but it is a rationally skeptical conclusion.
You have argued the case that there are testable claims in these other areas, and then you say skepticism doesn't need science. Okay. I'm confused.
That's because you're mixing up two different points of mine by conflating "skepticism" with "scientific skepticism."
How have I been hypocritical? Do I want to limit the scope of what we call skepticism so that there is no confusion? Yeah. But I get that there are other ways of approaching claims. I do it here at SFN myself. There are many claims that I have debated without worrying about whether I'm employing scientific skepticism in my objection to the claim. I argue that there is no god, for example. But strictly speaking, that's not sci-skepticism.
No, but it is skepticism. That's my point. "Scientific skepticism" and "skepticism" are not synonyms. To claim that they are in order to protect a "brand" is hypocritical when you defend that same brand against people you think might be conflating "skepticism" with "atheism."

On the pages of these forums, you engage in skepticism without engaging in scientific skepticism. The distinction isn't difficult. The skepticism movement I thought I was a part of was not a scientific-skepticism-only movement. If it necessarily is, while using the less-specific moniker "skeptic movement," then its leaders are being hypocritical.

Again, if you want to avoid confusion, as you said above you do, then you should insist upon the proper adjective when talking about scientific skepticism.
So what do we do? How do we go about knowing what is what if we don't define what is what?
Please do define it precisely by calling scientific skepticism "scientific skepticism" and the broader skepticism "skepticism." Stop conflating the two terms! Easy!
And do we do with newbies and atheists who wouldn't know sci skepticism if it hit them in the head but call themselves skeptics even as they argue for anti vax, homeopathic and other pseudo scienctific issues?
Educate them or shun them. Easy. How does anyone deal with someone who wants to be in a group but gets the basics wrong?
You are on one side of a debate over scope, and I am on the other side. We both promote science and skepticism. So you are now bitter. Great.
I'm bitter because I find myself not on any side of a debate about scope, but on one side of an argument that's entirely about style, not substance - between rationalists, FFS.
Don't brush that question aside.
I haven't. I think the question is poorly asked and have done my best to clarify.
And you know... I would prefer not being called a hypocrite. I don't think I am being hypocritical...
I explained what's hypocritical with regard to conflation of terms.
...and I haven't accused you or even the supporters of the "widen the scope" movement of being hypocritical.
That's because they're not being hypocritical. They're not insisting upon doing something that they say that other people shouldn't do.
Just wrong like when Myers called atheism a subset of skepticism. Give me a break, huh?
If you just thought that conflating "skepticism" and "scientific skepticism" was okay to do, then you'd simply be wrong. The fact that you think such conflation is okay while also complaining about other people trying to conflate "skepticism" and "atheism" is what is hypocritical.

Note also that I haven't merely called you a hypocrite. I've explained why one particular behavior you have engaged in is hypocritical. This isn't a charge I make lightly, and so the distinction feels important to me. I've been on the receiving end, and I didn't like it, either. But rather than asking for a break, I took the hint and examined my alleged double-standards, and either demonstrated them to not actually be hypocritical, or I stopped acting hypocritically.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
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Why not question something for a change?
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26013 Posts

Posted - 02/10/2013 :  23:40:03   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil

So we both want the terms defined in a way that everyone understands what they are talking about. I thought sci-skepticism was pretty well defined. The idea isn't to confuse. The idea is to not confuse by keeping the scope limited.
"Scientific skepticism" is well-defined. Confusion is sown when someone says "skepticism" and you assume they mean "scientific skepticism" when they do not.
And yeah. Most of us are amateurs. So?
Having never performed a scientific skeptical investigation, I do not rise to the level of "amateur" as described in Loxton's article. I am not even a novice. I am - at best - a wanna-be.

Hell, reading popular-press books by scientific skeptics and auditing at Google U doesn't even rise to the level of "studying" compared to what folks like Daniel Loxton do.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
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Why not question something for a change?
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13467 Posts

Posted - 02/11/2013 :  09:19:57   [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
Dave:
Having never performed a scientific skeptical investigation, I do not rise to the level of "amateur" as described in Loxton's article. I am not even a novice. I am - at best - a wanna-be.

Hell, reading popular-press books by scientific skeptics and auditing at Google U doesn't even rise to the level of "studying" compared to what folks like Daniel Loxton do.

While I do think we here make some small contribution to skepticism, I'm reminded of what I wrote several years ago. And it still holds.

Most skeptics are not in the business of investigating claims. If that were the case, only scientists, magicians and those with expertise in the field of the claim in question would be skeptics. We skeptics support the investigators. Frankly, we cheer them on. As a layperson, I am simply not qualified to claim the expert knowledge of a scientist.

What I can do as a skeptic is cultivate my ability to recognize claims of a dubious nature. I can learn how not to be had. There is so much information coming at us from books, the media and from friends and family, that it is no small thing to be able to recognize, in that cacophony of ideas, those of value and those ideas that need to be questioned before a value can be assigned to them.


Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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BigPapaSmurf
SFN Die Hard

3192 Posts

Posted - 02/11/2013 :  11:11:48   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send BigPapaSmurf a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by H. Humbert
Ok, but that's all atheism is. Doubting the claim of theism.


Mmmm... Yeah, I'm gonna go ahead and have to disagree with you there.

For a tribe which has never encountered theism, their atheism has nothing to do with doubting.

"...things I have neither seen nor experienced nor heard tell of from anybody else; things, what is more, that do not in fact exist and could not ever exist at all. So my readers must not believe a word I say." -Lucian on his book True History

"...They accept such things on faith alone, without any evidence. So if a fraudulent and cunning person who knows how to take advantage of a situation comes among them, he can make himself rich in a short time." -Lucian critical of early Christians c.166 AD From his book, De Morte Peregrini
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13467 Posts

Posted - 02/11/2013 :  13:16:55   [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
Dave:
No, but it is skepticism. That's my point. "Scientific skepticism" and "skepticism" are not synonyms. To claim that they are in order to protect a "brand" is hypocritical when you defend that same brand against people you think might be conflating "skepticism" with "atheism."

You can be skeptical of anything. That doesn't automatically make you a part of the skeptical movement, right? What I mean is that I don't think we are trying to hoard the word "skeptic." I think we are trying to define a movement based on certain historical principals that have been generally accepted as to what is meant by “Skepticism” in the context of the Skeptical Movement and Scientific Skepticism.

I've never argued that being skeptical of the existence of god is a miss-use of the word, skeptic. I'm only arguing that identifying as a capital S Skeptic is synonymous with scientific skepticism. This is nothing new. It's the reason that the center for inquiry put out two magazines. Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer. Long before the current debate appeared, the CFI got it. And on this board, we have promoted the use of skepticism, reason and logic and science as the best ways to evaluate all claims to facts. We haven't just narrowed it to "skepticism is the best way…" But now it seems you are asking that we do just that. Am I wrong?

I'll grant you that there is more than one method for evaluating evidence, (or the lack of evidence as the case may be.) Traditionally, there has been some separation of methods, so that people wouldn't confuse what is this and what is that. Now you are saying that we should call it all big S Skepticism, (my shorthand, not yours) and it's up to the scientific skeptics to announce that they are not employing the other methods. So instead of skepticism, science, reason and logic, we should have scientific skepticism announced when that’s the method being used, and reason and logic and all other methods should all be called Skepticism. Or that all methods are big S skepticism, and all methods are equal and all a part of the skeptical movement. (Of course, there is overlap no matter what the method of choice is.)

So then how do we stop Myers from calling atheism a subset of skepticism? He is free to use whatever method he wants to, even if it's not in our traditional canon to justify that statement. Right? How can you even call him wrong?

I mean look. I'm skeptical of a lot of things that are outside of what scientific skepticism can deal with. But traditionally, when we speak of skeptics and the skeptical movement, we are speaking of scientific skepticism because it's the one area of skepticism that really is rock solid because it’s joined at the hip with science. It's hypocritical to not want to conflate atheism with skepticism, when even you agree that atheism is not really skepticism? It’s hypocritical to call them on it, because we don’t want different methods of being skeptical conflated?

Why is it that we can’t just wear more than one hat? We always have on this site.

If scientific skeptics must declare when they are applying that methodology, why should we not insist that all other “skeptics” declare when they are not? Why should they not have to say, “I arrived at this conclusion using reason and logic.” You know… To avoid any confusion?

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26013 Posts

Posted - 02/11/2013 :  14:48:54   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil

If scientific skeptics must declare when they are applying that methodology, why should we not insist that all other “skeptics” declare when they are not? Why should they not have to say, “I arrived at this conclusion using reason and logic.” You know… To avoid any confusion?
I'll have more of a response later, but just wanted to point out that I've already said that I'm going to adopt the label "unscientific skepticism" for most of what I do around here. I was serious. I don't want to be hypocritical by demanding more precision from the scientific skeptics while omitting adjectives myself.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 02/11/2013 :  14:55:27   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil
I'm only arguing that identifying as a capital S Skeptic is synonymous with scientific skepticism.
No, not everywhere. That's what many people now refer to as "Bigfoot skepticism" and are increasingly leaving behind as irrelevant. That's the trend, young activists distancing themselves from the old "brand." And not because the movement's been too diluted, but because it's stuck in the past and refuses to change. I guess the old guard can't see the writing on the wall.

Skepticism, as a movement, is evolving. I think the scientific skeptics are going to find they can't control which issues the average skeptic wants to focus their time and energy on by scolding them.


"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 02/11/2013 14:57:02
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