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 How widespread is Loxton's scope of skepticism?
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Philo
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Posted - 11/07/2016 :  16:50:01  Show Profile Send Philo a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Take a look at Daniel Loxton's two-chapter essay called "Why Is There A Skeptical Movement?": http://www.skeptic.com/downloads/Why-Is-There-a-Skeptical-Movement.pdf

In that very interesting essay, Daniel Loxton defines skepticism as "the practice or project of studying paranormal and pseudoscientific claims through the lens of science and critical scholarship, and then sharing the results with the public". He also doesn't seem to think that promotion of science and critical thinking is for the skeptical movement, because there are other movements and disciplines doing that. Skeptics should stick to investigating pseudoscience and the paranormal.

However, if you go to the website of almost any skeptical organization, you'll see that they list the promotion of science and critical thinking among their goals. Of course, investigating pseudoscience and paranormal claims are among their listed goals as well, but not their only goals.

Daniel Loxton has stated elsewhere that he personally identifies with humanism, and views skepticism as his profession. I'd guess, admittedly without data, that this is rather rare in the skeptical movement, but whatever. Loxton has stated elsewhere that he views astronomy as a role model for skepticism, which is in line with the above. A skeptic is thus one who investigates pseudoscience and the paranormal, just like an astronomer is one who... astronomizes?

This can be contrasted to Steven Novella, who has explicitly stated that he identifies with skepticism and would discourage identifying with ideologies. A few months ago on the SGU they talked a bit about if everyone was a skeptic, and then the skeptical movement would not be needed. From Loxton's point of view, if I understand it correctly, everyone being a skeptic is akin to imagine everyone being an astronomer.

Loxton also stated that political secularism, i.e separation of religion and state, is of no concern to the skeptical movement. Yet again Steven Novella listed it as an essential of skepticism: http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/bigfoot-skeptics-new-atheists-politics-and-religion/

Do you share Loxton's view of thinking of skepticism as a profession, and that only pseudoscience and paranormal beliefs fall under skepticism, not the promotion of science and critical thinking?

Edited by - Philo on 11/07/2016 16:52:38

Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
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Posted - 11/07/2016 :  18:01:35   [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
Well... As a person who makes at least a part of his living writing science books for children, and has long been the writer of Junior Skeptic, published by Skeptic Magazine, I'd say that Daniel Loxton actually is a one of the few professional skeptics insofar as he makes at least a part of his living as a skeptical activist. He's also a promoter of science. I'd have to read the article again to find where he doesn't agree that under the banner of skepticism, science should not be promoted. He and Novella are pretty close on the the subject and scope of skepticism and both of them promote science. I suspect that what he's saying is that scientific skepticism is a separate and distinguishable enterprise with an emphasis on testing and exposing extraordinary claims that popular culture has wrongly embraced along with claims that are foisted on us by non-experts, cranks and liars. Skepticism is not about the discovery of new galaxies, if you see what I mean. What I think is he's probably saying that the promotion of science does not necessarily make someone a skeptic in any activist sense.

He does say that to be in the wheelhouse of a scientific skeptic, the claim has to be testable in some way.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

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Philo
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Posted - 11/08/2016 :  13:07:06   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Philo a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'm thinking about the quoted part from the essay and the surrounding text:

To better appreciate the dimensions of that distinct mission—the much-discussed “scope” of scientific skepticism—it’s necessary to consider the other movements, organizations, and scholarly fields that already existed in North America before CSICOP was formed:

There was already an atheist movement. ...

Being a part of that Freethought tradition, there were of course already humanist organizations and humanist media many decades before CSICOP was formed. ...

Similarly, before CSICOP there were already groups and movements working to advance democratic ideals, civil rights, and feminism. ...

CSICOP was even predated by an existing movement to promote critical thinking (a movement that still exists) known not-too-creatively as “the critical thinking movement.” ...

With all those movements doing all that work, why bother forming CSICOP? If other movements already promoted humanism, atheism, rationalism, science education and even critical thinking, what possible need could there be for organizing an additional, new movement—a movement of people called “skeptics”?


If promotion of science and critical thinking is not the province of skeptics but of other movements, then a lot of skeptic organizations got it really wrong...
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Kil
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USA
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Posted - 11/08/2016 :  13:29:27   [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
Originally posted by Philo
If promotion of science and critical thinking is not the province of skeptics but of other movements, then a lot of skeptic organizations got it really wrong...


Yeah. But I don't think that's what he is saying. I think he's saying that while all those things exist outside of skeptical activism, scientific skepticism isn't necessarily included by those with those other agendas, so scientific skepticism has an important niche to fill. I can't speak for Daniel, but I doubt that he doesn't realize that there is some overlap in those areas. Scientific methods and critical thinking are both tools used by skeptics. I doubt that Daniel would disagree.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

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Philo
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Posted - 01/25/2017 :  15:05:02   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Philo a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil

Originally posted by Philo
If promotion of science and critical thinking is not the province of skeptics but of other movements, then a lot of skeptic organizations got it really wrong...


Yeah. But I don't think that's what he is saying. I think he's saying that while all those things exist outside of skeptical activism, scientific skepticism isn't necessarily included by those with those other agendas, so scientific skepticism has an important niche to fill. I can't speak for Daniel, but I doubt that he doesn't realize that there is some overlap in those areas. Scientific methods and critical thinking are both tools used by skeptics. I doubt that Daniel would disagree.


So Loxton would agree that promotion of science and critical thinking is part of the skeptical portfolio?

In general, how has Loxton's two-chapter history of the skeptic movement been received within said movement? It seems not to have received much commentary, at least not from what I can find.
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Philo
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Posted - 03/20/2017 :  12:08:24   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Philo a Private Message  Reply with Quote
One issue I have with Daniel Loxton's definition of skepticism is that he seems to define it around debunking paranormal and pseudoscientific claims. Most skeptics seem to define it around science and critical thinking, and debunking these claims is then a consequence of that. Loxton seems to have it the other way around. For Loxton debunking comes first.

http://www.csicop.org/si/show/spreading_skepticism

The above CSICOP article writes that: "However, the goal of the skeptical movement was never—or not for me—to debunk specific beliefs. Instead, it should be to spread critical thinking on whatever subject is shoved in front of us." This would be in anathema to Loxton's view.

Could someone please clarify if I have misunderstood something?
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Philo
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Posted - 03/26/2017 :  15:56:47   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Philo a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Could someone please clarify if I have misunderstood something?


Nobody...?
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
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Posted - 03/26/2017 :  16:48:22   [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
Originally posted by Philo

Could someone please clarify if I have misunderstood something?


Nobody...?
I'm sure Loxton would agree that promotion of science and critical thinking is part of the skeptical portfolio.

The reason I've been slow to answer is I just didn't (and still don't) have the time to read Loxton's essay again. In general, I think you will find that both Loxton and Novella agree on the scope of scientific skepticism.

It would be much easier to answer questions about this stuff with specific quotes copied and pasted here, with a link back to the source material.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

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Philo
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Posted - 04/02/2017 :  06:43:46   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Philo a Private Message  Reply with Quote
In that very essay, Loxton defines skepticism as: "the practice or project of studying paranormal and pseudoscientific claims through the lens of science and critical scholarship, and then sharing the results with the public"

Meanwhile, Novella defines it as: "A skeptic is one who prefers beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid to ones that are comforting or convenient, and therefore rigorously and openly applies the methods of science and reason to all empirical claims, especially their own. A skeptic provisionally proportions acceptance of any claim to valid logic and a fair and thorough assessment of available evidence, and studies the pitfalls of human reason and the mechanisms of deception so as to avoid being deceived by others or themselves. Skepticism values method over any particular conclusion."

Am I really the only one who see a clear distinction in emphasis here? For Loxton, pseudoscience and the paranormal are the core of skepticism, for Novella it is science and critical thinking. You will notice that Novella doesn't even mention those two topics, just "empirical claims".
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
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Posted - 04/02/2017 :  09:18:47   [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
It looks to me like Loxton is speaking about what he thinks is in the scientific skeptic's wheelhouse (the scope of scientific skepticism) and Novella is speaking more about methodology. And yeah. I don't see their statements being particularly contradictory. For example, "through the lens of science" implies both the promotion of science and empiricism, which is a foundation of science.

I don't think either Loxton or Novella are as interested in "debunking" as they are in the investigation of a claim, wherever the investigation leads. Debunking a claim is often the result of an investigation into an extraordinary claim, but the goal is to to find out of the claim holds water, and if so, how much. I kinda think both Novella and Loxton are saying the same thing in that regard.

I can't make any promises but I can ask Mr. Loxton to take a look at this thread and tell me what he thinks.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Philo
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Posted - 04/02/2017 :  15:43:59   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Philo a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil

I can't make any promises but I can ask Mr. Loxton to take a look at this thread and tell me what he thinks.


If possible, please do.
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13352 Posts

Posted - 04/11/2017 :  17:10:49   [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
Originally posted by Philo

Originally posted by Kil

I can't make any promises but I can ask Mr. Loxton to take a look at this thread and tell me what he thinks.


If possible, please do.
Daniel confirmed to me that there isn't much daylight between he and Novella, in that they are both promoting the same thing. He says they are both "old school skeptics" which I take to mean classic scientific skeptics who focus on testable claims. He says they both promote science, promote a scientific investigation of weird or fringe claims and the public critique of them, and the teaching of critical thinking so that "people can tell the difference between science and pseudoscience." He says: "Those three aspects are complements to each other, leaning together like a tripod."

In his view, those three things are of equal importance and "an inherently useful public service."

I should probably note that he asked to not be quoted because he wrote his reply in a hurry, and I'm doing my best, but some of the ways he put things to me are better than I could ever do by paraphrasing what he said. So my apologies to Daniel for lifting a few quotes from his answer to my question.

Bottom line is there isn't much, if any significant differences between Loxton and Novella's view of what scientific skepticism is or should be.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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