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Old 23rd August 2009, 08:01 PM   #1
stanfr
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Do Skeptics ever convince the Believer?

I admittedly rarely visit this forum; try not to waste precious time by being online (you know, we only have one life, a pity to spend it in cyberspace rather than Earth), but when I do I frequently see Forum Threads that follow the same basic structure:

1) Proponent makes outlandish claim, generally preposterous on its face, but usually easily provable if it were really valid.
2) Numerous 'skpetics' respond, usually with contemptuous remarks, outright mockery, sometimes lengthy attempts to convince the proponent that he/she is either mistaken or insane.
3) The proponent eventually responds, completely unshaken, offering more 'proof' of their claim.
4) The cycle repeats 'ad nauseum' for hundreds of lines or pages.

This appears to be the same pattern, whatever the claim, from Bigfootry to alleged psychic ability, to weird physics.

From an 'outsider's' perspective, it makes one wonder who really has the more serious psychological issue. What an incredible waste of time, time that could be spent solving the world's problems, feeding the poor, curing the ill, building things, cleaning things up...

Presumably, the responders would argue that they have a duty to refute the proponent, that unchecked the proponents beliefs could be some sort of threat to themselves or others. But, I wonder if it usually has the opposite result, simply giving the proponent the attention he/she desires and strengthening their resolve.

Has a proponent ever changed his/her mind about their beliefs as a result of relentless Skeptical response? I tend to doubt it; if they do, it is more likley that like an addict, they were ready to change.

Rant over...we now return to routine programming...
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Old 23rd August 2009, 08:04 PM   #2
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It has been known to happen occasionally. It certainly isn't common.
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Old 23rd August 2009, 08:16 PM   #3
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Ahh, a post that goes right to my own line of thinking. I have questioned many times the way people respond to others in this regard. More in politics than in skeptical matters. But both are the same thing for the most part. It's a question of what is the best way to convince others that their point of view is wrong, and that your own point of view is correct.

I will concede that people do occasionally "see the light" from such harsh methods. But I will argue till the day I die that it is one of the least effective methods at our disposal, and that the people who engage in the harshest mockery and insults are compensating for their own personal issues of some kind, and are part of the problem, and not the solution.

I speak from my own personal experience.. someone who was raised Christian, and had more than my own share of bouts with skeptical types when I was younger and still not sure what to believe. And still, to this day, in matter of politics, where people often think the more brilliant line of debate is to ridicule and insult your oponent incessantly. As if that is going to make them change their minds. As if that is going to make them suddenly want to be on your side, and respect you.

My experience is that that is a turn off, and get's my hackles up, and makes me less inclined to take them seriously and respect them at all. It makes me defensive and angry. It doesn't make me think I'm wrong. It doesn't make me question anything. It triggers a low level emotional and defensive reaction that is hard to overcome. One that can easily overcome your own critical thinking if you aren't careful.

I've wondered about this as long as I've been a member here. Where someone will post something admittedly ridiculous... and yet I find it disheartening to see people just lambast and ridicule, and not say anything constructive. It makes me feel dirty, and somewhat ashamed to be on their side.

I was hoping for a more noble and professional level of response. But more and more these days, it's the norm to just "LOL, you are an IDIOT!" and walk away. It really is the intellecutally lazy approach. In every way. It's an attempt to force a change of mind through stigmatization and shame. Not based on facts or reality.

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Old 23rd August 2009, 09:01 PM   #4
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Thanks for your response, Whiplash, I completely agree. Of course, not everyone who responds does so with such contempt, but unfortunately those that do are the ones that needlessly drag these 'battles' out. And also, there are those that are well-intentioned and offer lengthy detailed responses in attempt to refute the proponent, but really after a while it should be come clear that there is no end game, then it just becomes a waste of time. In my opinion, wait for the proponent to make a claim that is worth responding to (testable or directly refutable), otherwise silence may be the best approach.
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Old 23rd August 2009, 09:20 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by stanfr View Post
Presumably, the responders would argue that they have a duty to refute the proponent, that unchecked the proponents beliefs could be some sort of threat to themselves or others. But, I wonder if it usually has the opposite result, simply giving the proponent the attention he/she desires and strengthening their resolve.
Carl Sagan said (paraphrasing here) is that we should not make the world a comfortable place for those who do not think critically. To not engage them is to tacitly approve of what they say. These are teachable moments.

Quote:
Has a proponent ever changed his/her mind about their beliefs as a result of relentless Skeptical response? I tend to doubt it; if they do, it is more likley that like an addict, they were ready to change.
Yes, actually. Chillzero, a moderator here, once believed she had psychic abilities.

But what you have done is set up a straw man. If you surveyed the people posting in these threads and asked them if they thought they stood any real chance of changing the mind of a VFF, Reason1 or Connie Sonne, most if not all wouldn't give it much of a chance at all.

There are plenty of sitters on the fence who like to believe that there are two essentially equal sides of the debate over various paranormal claims. Our discussions show pretty clearly that the sides are not equal. We show that it's not a matter of opinion but of fact. Claimants can prove themselves, but they don't. Skeptics encourage tests that will prove that an ability exists, but claimants repeatedly avoid them. That sends a very strong message to those who come here unsure of what to believe.

Many people are unaware of how to approach these claims. We show them how to develop protocols the prove things one or another. There have been numerous public and private comments from people who say they learn a lot from these threads. More than anything these are exercises in critical thinking. People take these lessons and apply them in various facets of their lives.

It's also important that we skeptics do not allow ourselves to be beaten into submission by repetition and persistence. It's ugly, but it's necessary to keeping the flame of critical thinking burning strong. The woos of the world almost never give up any ground. Sometimes the only course of action is to play them to a draw. If we don't, we'll have given up ground we may never get back again.
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Old 23rd August 2009, 09:35 PM   #6
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This question motivated me to move into studying education to find an answer. I was never satisfied with the usual methods skeptics employ to try to educate others, so threw myself into looking at how people learn in search of a solution.

You're certainly right in that a good proportion of debate tactics used on forums do little to change minds. Interestingly, it runs a lot deeper than that.

Learning happens on a number of levels, depending on what it is we're discovering. 'Constructivism' used to be huge in pedagogical circles, where it was said teachers should rely on a person's to interact with their observations to learn. So, kids would play with stuff and teach themselves by seeing what happens. The problem with this approach, I find, is that we're missing a key element in how we evaluate the information we encounter.

People aren't passive absorbers of input, slotting it into place as it enters their head according to what they already know. They actively take an idea and subject it to an evaluation procedure based on a wide range of values, often using a learning heuristic. Much of this relies on existing schema, however it also depends a lot on their relationship with the person providing the information, or the context of how the information is being discovered.

Changing the mind of a believer is rarely a simple case of showing them where they're wrong. On occasion, a person might share your own values in evaluating information and simply not have access to certain bits of text. In those situations, discussion - done properly - can be fruitful. Yet more often than not, people have arrived at their conclusions using different values, based more on emotional needs, perception of popularity or an appeal to authority. In those situations, demonstrating how they fail according to your own criteria of internal consistency or logic won't make much difference at all. Knowing how to spot the difference between these two groups is vital in knowing when you're about to waste time entering a losing battle.

Athon

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Old 23rd August 2009, 11:12 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by UncaYimmy View Post
Carl Sagan said (paraphrasing here) is that we should not make the world a comfortable place for those who do not think critically. To not engage them is to tacitly approve of what they say. These are teachable moments.
Carl Sagan should have a coke and go **** himself. It gives me cold chills when someone has such a fundamentalist mindset that sees everything in black and white/all or nothing terms. "We're right and everybody else is wrong." That's the stuff wars are made of.

I consider Randi style skepticism to be nothing more than "debunking", which has a predetermined agenda that it is false going in and it's just a matter of figuring out how to disprove rather than to weigh and asses. I will say, though, that this is almost exclusively in the areas of woo. With non-emotional issues like string theory or quantum mechanics, etc., the discourse is reasonable and civil and very informative.


Quote:
Yes, actually. Chillzero, a moderator here, once believed she had psychic abilities.

But what you have done is set up a straw man. If you surveyed the people posting in these threads and asked them if they thought they stood any real chance of changing the mind of a VFF, Reason1 or Connie Sonne, most if not all wouldn't give it much of a chance at all.

There are plenty of sitters on the fence who like to believe that there are two essentially equal sides of the debate over various paranormal claims. Our discussions show pretty clearly that the sides are not equal. We show that it's not a matter of opinion but of fact. Claimants can prove themselves, but they don't. Skeptics encourage tests that will prove that an ability exists, but claimants repeatedly avoid them. That sends a very strong message to those who come here unsure of what to believe.

Many people are unaware of how to approach these claims. We show them how to develop protocols the prove things one or another. There have been numerous public and private comments from people who say they learn a lot from these threads. More than anything these are exercises in critical thinking. People take these lessons and apply them in various facets of their lives.

It's also important that we skeptics do not allow ourselves to be beaten into submission by repetition and persistence. It's ugly, but it's necessary to keeping the flame of critical thinking burning strong. The woos of the world almost never give up any ground. Sometimes the only course of action is to play them to a draw. If we don't, we'll have given up ground we may never get back again.

Fundamentalists are scary
Angry funamentalists are really scary.
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Old 23rd August 2009, 11:24 PM   #8
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Quote:
Carl Sagan should have a coke and go **** himself. It gives me cold chills when someone has such a fundamentalist mindset that sees everything in black and white/all or nothing terms. "We're right and everybody else is wrong." That's the stuff wars are made of.
Critical thinking is not a black and white issue. Far from it. Critical thinking requires, well, thinking critically and accepting the answer regardless of preconceived notions. It applies to facts though it is useful when forming opinions. Can you name a war that was fought over a dispute about a fact that was testable? I can't think of any, but military history is not an area in which I consider myself an expert.

If you are looking for the critical thinker in a group that is having a debate, the critical thinker will be the one suggesting tests with self-evident results to resolve the issue. Is that such a bad thing?
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Old 23rd August 2009, 11:28 PM   #9
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There are any number of threads over in Conspiracy Theories where posters who once supported such theories are now skeptics.

And a number of those directly credit what they have learned at the JREF forums.

Here is one example, read the answer to question b).

Originally Posted by Hourglassmemory View Post
a) How did you once become a truther? It actually did start with Youtube/Google videos of 9/11. During the afternoons I just couldn't stop watching that. And from Dylan Avery I went to Alex Jones whom I saw wondering around those kids, and I was curious about his claims, so I listened to him. And I just took in everything he said. From Info wars to skull and bones to Owl worshiping. I took it all in. I got to the Bildeberg group, then black helicopters interacting with lights near crop circles, then abductions and UFO videos to New Age interpretations of them, then 2012. I became a Raelean at one point, seeing design in nature (these aliens supposedly created every tree and bird and animal thanks to their creativity), and from the Elohim(the aliens of the Raelian cult) I went to grays and of course, the reptilians. Of course, the reptilians were behind every triangular architecture and ancient symbolics found ANYWHERE, including Mars, and probably were the Illuminati, thinking of taking over the world with a New World Order, using Fugifilm zeppelins with some occult technology to look into our houses and spread mind controlling poison through contrails. Obviously, 9/11 was just one step in their plan.
And yes, all of this reinforced this conviction I had in my mind that there was something going on.
And being a young person, still thinking that I had a long life ahead of me, where I could try and strive to do something great, this was a very nasty punch in the face. And I mean that. And all of this just fell on me in a matter of weeks. I was...what? 16, 17? It wasn't pleasant at all. You got this feeling of chronic frustration and powerlessness. All you could do was smile at your family and watch movies. I spoke of this to my mother and she was always "I'm telling you, watch movies." she would shake her head with laugh when I told her than I knew a lot more than her. Now I understand her.
I got to the point where I could just lie in bed all day. Only getting up of course, "wanting to know more" and watching more videos.

b) What convinced you back from truther to non-truther? Once again, I hope you do not respond something like "truthers are dumb".
It was this website actually. And from here to podcasts and Point of Inquiry to a whole myriad of articles and weekly stuff that just gets me thinking.
My God, were it not for James Randi and the people in these forums I would have lost my mind, I'm sure of it. Forever. Were it not for people like you I would have lost my mind.
These forums taught me common sense again. It's like you forget about common sense when you look into this stuff. But you still think you're using it. You're using it but with a conclusion already in mind. It's hard to explain.
I think something MORE than common sense got me ticking.
But yes, from these forums all my UFO/cryptozoology beliefs just went out the window, and even though I was sad in a way to learn that it wasn't true, I'm glad I'm more truthful to myself. I really try to be honest about stuff like this now.

c) What are your thoughts nowadays about your time as a truther? What mistakes you made back then? Were you 100% convinced, agressively promoting the truth? Whatever comes to your mind.
My thoughts from back then...As I said, it wasn't pleasant.
But what a lesson, you know?...On human psychology and gullibility and the power of innocent misinterpretation, no matter where it comes from.
What's better to learn about their mentality than to actually believe a whole range of crazy stupid beliefs out there? And still come out of it with the drive and excitement to listen to skeptical podcasts every week and reading science news from time to time.
What mistakes? It really was an innocent mistake to just listen to these people, and not think it through. And only listening to their perspective.
I WAS 100% convinced, but I wasn't promoting it. I was aware that I might sound pretty nuts. And i mean nuts to the extreme. It wasn't just 9/11 was an inside job look at this video". That was heartfelt certainty that made you look out the window and feel angry at the world.
I recently went to a concert with a friend of mine and we were waiting for someone to pick us up there was this young man wondering around in the rain smoking, and after a while he came close to us, asking us if we had a cigarette, we said "no we don't smoke". He said "Cool, cool. So how are you?"
A bit cold I said and this rain could stop for a while.
this rain, yes." he said "You know that this rain (at this point I was thinking that he was a global warming denier or something similar), this rain s because extraterrestrials are fiddling with the (don't recall what he said now).
He went on about mind control and whatnot (REALLY crazy amount of blatant obvious non sequiturs) but......he didn't look crazy to me. I was listening to him and I didn't see insanity there.
I guess that's what you get from being "one of them" for a while. You understand them, in a way.

I hope this reply is worth anything.
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Old 23rd August 2009, 11:50 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by jakesteele View Post
Carl Sagan should have a coke and go **** himself. It gives me cold chills when someone has such a fundamentalist mindset that sees everything in black and white/all or nothing terms. "We're right and everybody else is wrong." That's the stuff wars are made of.
That'd be pretty tricky for him to do, seeing as how he's dead and all. I suggest reading some of his books - especially The Demon Haunted World, because you appear to have an incorrect idea of what he is all about. Sagan has a fundamentalist mindset? Please, educate yourself.

Originally Posted by jakesteele View Post
I consider Randi style skepticism to be nothing more than "debunking", which has a predetermined agenda that it is false going in and it's just a matter of figuring out how to disprove rather than to weigh and asses.
Once again, I would say here that you haven't closely examined "Randi style skepticism" at all, because if you had, you would see that it isn't like that. You assume that it's like that.

Let's take the MDC for example - The MDC does not set out with a predetermined agenda to debunk things. On the contrary, the claimants approach the JREF with a claim, which they then attempt to demonstrate. The protocols of the MDC are set up to ensure that they do not cheat - after all, a million dollars is rather a lot of money. But there is no predetermined agenda that says that such-and-such does not exist. There is a predetermined agenda that says that if such-and-such exists, then it should be demonstrable. The JREF then invites people to demonstrate their claims. If they do so successfully, they win a million dollars. No position is held prior to the demonstration.

All that having been said, some of us do come to a conclusion that such-and-such does not exist, having seen many attempts at demonstrating its existence fail. Dowsing, for instance. But it is not a "predetermined agenda" that causes us to come to that conclusion, but an examination of the results of testing.
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Old 24th August 2009, 12:42 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by stanfr View Post
I admittedly rarely visit this forum; try not to waste precious time by being online (you know, we only have one life, a pity to spend it in cyberspace rather than Earth), but when I do I frequently see Forum Threads that follow the same basic structure:

1) Proponent makes outlandish claim, generally preposterous on its face, but usually easily provable if it were really valid.
2) Numerous 'skpetics' respond, usually with contemptuous remarks, outright mockery, sometimes lengthy attempts to convince the proponent that he/she is either mistaken or insane.
3) The proponent eventually responds, completely unshaken, offering more 'proof' of their claim.
4) The cycle repeats 'ad nauseum' for hundreds of lines or pages.

This appears to be the same pattern, whatever the claim, from Bigfootry to alleged psychic ability, to weird physics.

From an 'outsider's' perspective, it makes one wonder who really has the more serious psychological issue. What an incredible waste of time, time that could be spent solving the world's problems, feeding the poor, curing the ill, building things, cleaning things up...

Presumably, the responders would argue that they have a duty to refute the proponent, that unchecked the proponents beliefs could be some sort of threat to themselves or others. But, I wonder if it usually has the opposite result, simply giving the proponent the attention he/she desires and strengthening their resolve.

Has a proponent ever changed his/her mind about their beliefs as a result of relentless Skeptical response? I tend to doubt it; if they do, it is more likley that like an addict, they were ready to change.

Rant over...we now return to routine programming...
JREF Forum posters DC (formerly Dictator Cheney) and thesyntaxera went through that process here and are now reformed truthers.

I will PM them, because it would be interesting to hear their thoughts on the "relentless Skeptical response".
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Old 24th August 2009, 12:50 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
...snip...

There is a predetermined agenda that says that if such-and-such exists, then it should be demonstrable. The JREF then invites people to demonstrate their claims. If they do so successfully, they win a million dollars. No position is held prior to the demonstration.

...snip...
And it should be noted that the "predetermined agenda" is from the challenger - they are the ones that say that their inability is demonstrable not the JREF.
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Old 24th August 2009, 01:22 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
And it should be noted that the "predetermined agenda" is from the challenger - they are the ones that say that their inability is demonstrable not the JREF.
Indeed.
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Old 24th August 2009, 01:37 AM   #14
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And since I don't believe in Freudian pseudoscience - that "inability" was a spell-checker mistake!
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Old 24th August 2009, 01:57 AM   #15
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I hadn't even noticed!
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Old 24th August 2009, 03:15 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by orphia nay View Post
JREF Forum posters DC (formerly Dictator Cheney) and thesyntaxera went through that process here and are now reformed truthers.

I will PM them, because it would be interesting to hear their thoughts on the "relentless Skeptical response".


well i dont want to take the example 9/11, in my oppinion JREF didnt do a cery good job in that case. While i indeed changed my mind in regard to 9/11, it was only partially because of JREF debates and info. because it was mostly just handbagfights between truthers and nontruthers.

But a very good example would be BIO meat.
I have changed my mind totaly there, and also tell others whenever we talk about BIO and food in general.

And mainly there it was Rolfe that convinced me, or atleast she/he made me read more about it from diffrent sources.
I was pro BIO meat (Homeopathic "medicine")
now i am againt BIO meat.

But they didnt convince me yet that Accupuncture doesnt work

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Old 24th August 2009, 03:25 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by DC View Post


well i dont want to take the example 9/11, in my oppinion JREF didnt do a cery good job in that case. While i indeed changed my mind in regard to 9/11, it was only partially because of JREF debates and info. because it was mostly just handbagfights between truthers and nontruthers.

But a very good example would be BIO meat.
I have changed my mind totaly there, and also tell others whenever we talk about BIO and food in general.

And mainly there it was Rolfe that convinced me, or atleast she/he made me read more about it from diffrent sources.
I was pro BIO meat (Homeopathic "medicine")
now i am againt BIO meat.

But they didnt convince me yet that Accupuncture doesnt work
Thanks for your response, DC. It's very interesting.

Do you think that being at a skeptics' forum helped you adopt certain principles of critical/free thinking that led to your changing your opinions?
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Old 24th August 2009, 03:38 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by orphia nay View Post
Thanks for your response, DC. It's very interesting.

Do you think that being at a skeptics' forum helped you adopt certain principles of critical/free thinking that led to your changing your opinions?
well i know most will laugh now, but actually before 9/11 i was already a sceptic light.

it was more like hanging out on conspiracy theory fora helped me loosing my sceptical skills. i got convinced of stuff i would normaly not get confinced of without evidence. I stopped listening to "the other side" and it turned almost in a sort cult. when i realized it i started posting here on JREF and faced the challange of people demanding evidence or atleast a sound theory.
But in the case of 9/11 it was actually other truthers (Gregory Urich and Dr, Greenings) that helped opening my eyes again.

by the time i arived on JREF the debunkers gave already up on beeing nice and polite. I dont really blame them, i can understand it, but it wasnt helpfull for me.

But in the case of other woo, like Homeopathy, wonderhealings, psychics mindreading and Bigfoot, it is a great forum. Mayn many well educated and literate people debating mostly on a high level that do provide evidence and good sources.

sometimes one can get the impression the scpetics here all think alike.
but reaing a few posts in the Politics sections debunks that.

i would say, sceptics can indeed convince openminded people.
but Naysayers claiming to be sceptics cannot convince openminded people
sceptics cannot convince closeminded people claiming to be openminded.
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Old 24th August 2009, 03:44 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by jakesteele View Post
Carl Sagan should have a coke and go **** himself. It gives me cold chills when someone has such a fundamentalist mindset that sees everything in black and white/all or nothing terms. "We're right and everybody else is wrong." That's the stuff wars are made of...

...Fundamentalists are scary. Angry funamentalists are really scary.
Further to Arthwollipot's reply, here is Carl Sagan on the use of skepticism:

Quote:
"Have I ever heard a skeptic wax superior and contemptuous? Certainly. I've even sometimes heard, to my retrospective dismay, the same unpleasant tone in my own voice. There are human imperfections on both sides of this issue. Even when it's applied sensitively, scientific skepticism may come across as arrogant, dogmatic, heartless and dismissive of the feelings and deeply held beliefs of others. And, it must be said, some scientists and dedicated skeptics apply this tool as a blunt instrument, with little finesse. Sometimes it looks as if the skeptical conclusion came first, that contentions were dismissed before, not after, the evidence was examined.

...Imagine you enter a big-city taxicab and the moment you get settled in, the driver begins a harangue about the supposed iniquities and inferiorities of another ethnic group. Is your best course to keep quiet, bearing in mind that silence conveys assent? Or is it your moral responsibility to argue with him, to express outrage, even to leave the cab - because you know that every silent assent will encourage him next time, and every vigorous dissent will cause him next time to think twice? Likewise,if we offer too much silent assent about mysticism and superstition - even when it seems to be doing a little good- we abet a general climate in which skepticism is seen as impolite, science tiresome and rigourous thinking somehow stuffy and inappropriate. Figuring out a prudent balance takes wisdom.

- from The Demon Haunted World chapter 17, The Marriage of Skepticism and Wonder
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Old 24th August 2009, 03:57 AM   #20
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I would like to take this moment to apologize to Carl Sagan and the other members of this forum. I have been going through some turbulent times with work and finances and I am very short tempered at the moment and tend to lash out.

I feel like I hijacked the thread with a rude attitude. I would like to apologize and let the thread stay on track.

Respectfully,

Jake Steele
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Old 24th August 2009, 04:16 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by stanfr View Post
Do Skeptics ever convince the Believer?
Sometimes it takes a crowbar, but it happens.
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Old 24th August 2009, 04:46 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by stanfr View Post
I admittedly rarely visit this forum; try not to waste precious time by being online (you know, we only have one life, a pity to spend it in cyberspace rather than Earth), but when I do I frequently see Forum Threads that follow the same basic structure:

1) Proponent makes outlandish claim, generally preposterous on its face, but usually easily provable if it were really valid.
2) Numerous 'skpetics' respond, usually with contemptuous remarks, outright mockery, sometimes lengthy attempts to convince the proponent that he/she is either mistaken or insane.
3) The proponent eventually responds, completely unshaken, offering more 'proof' of their claim.
4) The cycle repeats 'ad nauseum' for hundreds of lines or pages.

This appears to be the same pattern, whatever the claim, from Bigfootry to alleged psychic ability, to weird physics.

From an 'outsider's' perspective, it makes one wonder who really has the more serious psychological issue. What an incredible waste of time, time that could be spent solving the world's problems, feeding the poor, curing the ill, building things, cleaning things up...

Presumably, the responders would argue that they have a duty to refute the proponent, that unchecked the proponents beliefs could be some sort of threat to themselves or others. But, I wonder if it usually has the opposite result, simply giving the proponent the attention he/she desires and strengthening their resolve.

Has a proponent ever changed his/her mind about their beliefs as a result of relentless Skeptical response? I tend to doubt it; if they do, it is more likley that like an addict, they were ready to change.

Rant over...we now return to routine programming...
There are a wide range of posting styles on this forum, from shallow-thinking contemptuous little responses that don't add anything constructive to a discussion, which I would imagine are just likely to make the opposition defensive and so more entrenched in their thinking, to the intelligent, thoughtful and insightful. The latter may have a chance of succeeding where the former fails. Any genuine examples of where the former has succeeded will be interesting to hear about.

Originally Posted by UncaYimmy
Yes, actually. Chillzero, a moderator here, once believed she had psychic abilities.
But it wasn't ridicule that changed Chillzero's mind but explanations for such phenomena. In fact, she once said,

Originally Posted by Chillzero
Originally Posted by Remirol
that style makes us look like people who can't hold our tempers, who are just as much raving loonies as the people we are debating. An onlooker can't tell
who to believe, because both parties are too busy shouting insults at each other.
I can agree with this from the experience of someone who started here believing some things, and learned to change those beliefs and become a more critical thinker, and armed with better information. My experience was drastically hindered by such styles, and helped more by those who would take time to read my posts and address what I actually said ... showing me what I was misunderstanding, or where the holes in my knowledge were.

People often mention Interesting Iain. He used this style, and it kept me away from the forum for almost a year while I went though my faith crisis. If it weren't for the patience of members who can post in a less rabid style, I don't know where I'd be now. I also had discussions with Miss Anthrope who
felt the same way I did, and we can't know how many people are intimidated away from the site due to aggressive posters. One major point of the site is to reach believers and demonstrate how critical thinking can show the flaws in their belief systems. This can't be done through aggression - it's too personal to the people you are trying to reach.
Chillzero has spoken out very strongly indeed against hostility towards those considered "woo"s. See here, for example:

Quote:
I don't have a problem with the word delusional. I have a problem with people misusing this particular section of the forum and I don't really want to have to step in on this thread and take action as a moderator. Threads here are designed to assist claimants in reaching a protocol that can be tested, for them to undergo the MDC challenge. To mock claimants is unacceptable to me, as it does not help the JREF or the claimant acheive their goal of getting to a testing point. It allows claimants to claim they are being intimidated from taking the test. We should give absolutely no space for leeway there.

When we finally do get a claimant who has reached the point where a protocol has been agreed, then it is encumbent upon us to do nothing more than wait for that to play out. We have nothing additional to contribute to a protocol discussion that has been agreed, and we are merely waiting for the test to be undertaken. Anything negative said to the claimant between agreement and the test is fodder for bad publicity for the JREF and enabling the claimant (and other claimants with their own particular grudges to bear as seen above) to jump in and claim obstacles are being placed intheir way - they are beng
intimidated or bullied, or the negative skeptic forces are working against their ability, or the nasty things being said are having a negative effect upon them.

I know from experience how intimidating it is to come to this forum and try to move toward a test for the MDC, and I think when someone sticks with it and gets to that point, they have earned some respect. We always tell them - put your money where your mouth is, so why on earth would we then be nasty to them when they do?

Do not give any claimant an easy excuse to walk away from the MDC.
Do not work against what the JREF are trying to acheive.
And here:

Quote:
You think claiming someone has no courage - in the face of them agreeing to test themselves, not privately, or on their own grounds, but away from home and in front of a disbelieving audience of hundreds - and calling them delusional is civil? It's not particularly constructive, is it?

You may call it being a party pooper, however I see it as more than that, and I've explained in detail why I think your comments are out of place in a thread for a claimant who has stepped up to the mark. You don't approve of the party - that's fine. The JREF are the hosts here, and we don't really have the right to work against them. You've voiced your opinion, and I don't see that you need add to that unless you wish to dissuade a claimant from testing, and that is in direct contradiction to what the JREF are trying to acheive. ...

Continually insisting that a person is delusional, is not the same thing as trying to show them how their claims/beliefs are delusional. It is closer to name-calling.
And here:

Quote:
There is nothing to be gained by subjecting a claimant to rudeness or abuse. If they decide not to take the test, it should be because - as you say - they have realised they cannot pass. It should not be because they were subjected to hostility, intimidation or rudeness.

As for courage, as an 'almost' claimant myself I can tell you that it takes a hell of a lot of nerve to walk in to the lion's den here. You know that the overwhelming majority of the membership believe you to be either deluded or fraudulent.

All that is required is a little respect for someone who has stepped up to put their money where their mouth is, so to speak. We regularly complain that believers will not subject themselves to appropriate testing. When they are treated harshly, would you blame them?

The success of the MDC is to be able to show that none of these things work under proper testing. Therefore it is a mark of success just to get people into the testing room. And if that testing takes place ahead of the MDC - in her own place and time - then that's just as good if we have a narrative of that testing. Beth did it before. I didn't because I was too intimidated at the time to document it here until I tried it for myself. Beth did more good for the MDC and skepticism by showing her self testing results and also her reasoning afterward, than I did by keeping it private until I realised it was
all bunk.

The best environment for this is an open one with some respect shown from both sides for the other.

ETA: Claimants should feel comfortable enough to come here and share their journey as they apply and self test.
I could quote more, but her point's been made.
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Old 24th August 2009, 06:50 AM   #23
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For me it is about much more than just the posts on the forums and whether or not the believer has been converted.

In the real world we run into the real wacko ideas all the time. This is where I have gleaned some really good arguments and even gotten better at ignoring the arrogant name callers. I have become a much more effective persuader IRL because of JREF.
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Old 24th August 2009, 08:31 AM   #24
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Well, the way I see it, the forum is in itself an excercise in critical thinking and excercising our ability to argue a point. When I got into James Randi, I saw many videos of him debunking many claims and using his common sense to bring down an argumkent that was rooted in fallacies. Then we come into the forums and we're given the opportunity to excercise our common sense by arguing these same topics with people who believe in woo or who, in one way or another, hold a non consistent form of thought.

But it becomes very tempting to try to "convert" the believer into a skeptic. That's just one of earth's temptations and most of us succumb to it at least once or twice in a lifetime.
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Old 24th August 2009, 08:48 AM   #25
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In regards to the OP:

I've never seen it happen, but I hold out hopes for a few people.
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Old 24th August 2009, 09:04 AM   #26
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I'll vote, "it depends."

For someone who has no particular personal stake in believing some kind of woo, you can gently prod them into starting really thinking about it.

(Happened to me too, albeit mostly on my own. But the range of woo _I_ believed at one point... let's just say that all those werewolves and incubi and revenants I wrote about recently in the vampires thread, weren't researched on the spot)

But if someone has a personal stake in believing some kind of woo -- e.g., let's say they're a fanatical christian because death scares the crap out of them and they need the reassurance -- then cognitive dissonance will work against you every single time. In the conflict between your input and the model that supports what they want to believe, your input will lose every single time.

Some cults also up the ante in that cognitive dissonance game. All that self-destructive behaviour is just one big pile of crap that, if you ever were to abandon their cult, you'd have to look back and think "gee, I was completely stupid back then, wasn't I?" Most people just aren't prepared to make that step, so to preserve their self-image, they'd rather keep on believing that the Guru is right and you're wrong. Again, try as you might, cognitive dissonance will work against you there.
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Old 24th August 2009, 11:42 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by Baby Nemesis View Post
But it wasn't ridicule that changed Chillzero's mind but explanations for such phenomena.
Why, exactly, did you use the word "but" in response to me? I never mentioned anything against which you could but.

Quote:
Chillzero has spoken out very strongly indeed against hostility towards those considered "woo"s. See here, for example:
As have I, but only in the context of first contact. We shouldn't treat every woo that walks through the door like they are mentally ill, deceitful, evasive, goal-posting moving cranks who ignore all logic put before them. But once they have proven themselves to be as much, I don't see the problem in dealing with them aggressively.

VFF was greeted quite warmly when she arrived here:
http://www.internationalskeptics.com...d.php?t=128149

Things didn't get hostile until she started with the evasions and ignoring solid advice.

Keep in mind that the OP of this thread is a straw man. The subject line asks if the believer is ever convinced by the skeptic, but the argument is that since this rarely/never happens, there's something wrong with the skeptics. This presumes that skeptics are only responding in an effort to convince a believer.

Your argument makes the same assumption when in fact most of us don't enter an aggressive stance until it's pretty clear the believer is not going to budge. Subsequent posts, at least in my case, are designed to remove every bit of cover behind which the believer hides. If the believer doesn't see it, such is life. Others will see it.
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Old 24th August 2009, 01:50 PM   #28
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I have seen a few believers change their views, but in my opinion the main reason to keep debating with woos is to provide information to the lurkers - the fence sitters who are not sure but who follow the debate in an attempt to learn more. Many of these people benefit from this approach and become critical thinkers themselves after what they have learned from reading the debates.

And it's not just fence sitters who benefit. I know for example that I have learned a lot from the posts of people like Rolfe - actual experts in their field who taught me things I didn't know before.
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Old 24th August 2009, 03:25 PM   #29
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I think you should always remember the lurkers/members who dont post. Theyre th eones who may be googling for info, and read more than they came here for!
I got here accidentally from a click click situation, and have found a new world. Some ideas I just toyed with..I got explanations and info for in here, and then could confidently say 'I don't believe in that' whereas before I was unsure!
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Old 24th August 2009, 03:33 PM   #30
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A lot of us are former believers. Our change of heart may not have happened on this site, but wherever it happened, it had to include a debunking by a skeptic.

As for me, I saw a short film featuring James Randi that so thoroughly debunked astrology that I rethought ALL of my woo beliefs and saw how many of the same principles applied to other forms of woo such as Tarot.


Here's the clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Dp2Zqk8vHw

Made a non-believer out of me in an instant.
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Old 24th August 2009, 03:43 PM   #31
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Until February of this year, I was a Bigfoot "believer". Specifically, I believed that a preponderance of evidence made it more likely that BF existed than that it didn't.

Also, like Dr. Jane Goodall among others, I was "romantic" about the idea of an undiscovered primate in North America. In that sense I suffered from confirmation bias and en emotion-based coloring of my perception of the data.

Then in March, I discovered this forum. I read all the damning data of which I had previously been ignorant. I debated with some of the best skeptics and logicians on the Internet and maybe in the world. I emerged from this test with the exact opposite "belief" from that with which I had entered: I believed that the preponderance of evidence showed that the BF's existence was extremely unlikely, and statistically speaking, damn near impossible.

So, in short, the answer to the thread question is "yes".
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Old 24th August 2009, 03:54 PM   #32
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Also, taking Logic in college really helped to straighten me out. I found the phrase "You can't prove a negative" to be very profound.* Once I wrapped my head around that and realized that it was true, all the typical woo arguments of "You can't prove Bigfoot doesn't exist, we haven't searched every inch of the Pacific Northwest yet," suddenly stopped being compelling arguments.




*Of course, you can attempt to prove a negative through inductive reasoning, but where ABSOLUTE PROOF is required, inductive reasoning simply doesn't cut the mustard. I find proving a negative via inductive reasoning to be a bit of a copout, personally. I simply accept that we can't prove the pink unicorn doesn't exist, but assert that its possible existence does not obligate me to believe in them. We'd never accept inductive reasoning from a woo.
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Old 24th August 2009, 04:03 PM   #33
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I just got to thinking that a few years ago, I used to watch these programs where the cops hired a psychic to find a body or a killer. There were several shows that left me scratching my head, wondering whether they just made it all up or what? I just chalked it all up to well, I guess I'm agnostic when it comes to this psychic stuff, perhaps some folks have a type of sensitivity that I don't understand. In short, I just filed this all away under, "I dunno". How could they be so dishonest as to invent this stuff just for the sake of entertainment? After all, real cops were being interviewed.
Well, I started looking at JREF and other web sites and pretty quickly saw that this stuff is all bunk, very convincing arguments. So, now, I don't even think twice when I hear of this stuff...it's all bunk.
So, in retrospect, I was a mild "woo", I guess but no longer. Surprising how many friends have not gone this route yet.
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Old 24th August 2009, 04:49 PM   #34
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information is important

Information is important--- in fact, it is crucial. A colleague of mine, a respected mathematician (C* algebras, anyone?) was raised in a fundamentalist household. At the age of 8, in the school library, he ran across an edition of The Encyclopedia Brittanica, volumes he had never seen before. After reading several articles, he came to the realization that everything his parents had told him was ********.
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Old 24th August 2009, 05:06 PM   #35
athon
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Originally Posted by hermite12 View Post
Information is important--- in fact, it is crucial. A colleague of mine, a respected mathematician (C* algebras, anyone?) was raised in a fundamentalist household. At the age of 8, in the school library, he ran across an edition of The Encyclopedia Brittanica, volumes he had never seen before. After reading several articles, he came to the realization that everything his parents had told him was ********.
Interesting that you say this. In your opinion, what made him decide the information in the encyclopedia was more correct than the information told by his parents?

Athon
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Old 24th August 2009, 10:38 PM   #36
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Exclamation I joined your forum just to say...

I registered just to make this post.

Skeptical discussion, particularly the criticism skeptics level towards religion, conspiracy theories, and alternative medicine, can and does have an impact upon "believers". Even skeptical discussion and criticism on the internet can be enough to convince someone. Case in point:

I used to be a poster and eventually moderator on the original Loose Change forums. If you don't know what that is, please visit the conspiracy theory section of these forums as they were at one point thoroughly obsessed with it there. I had fallen into the "conspiracy theorist" subset of humanity at a very vulnerable point in my life, I had just moved hundreds of miles to a seemingly alien part of the country, and my wife was in the hospital under very dire circumstances. I was also abusing prescription pain killers to counteract the anxiety of having to watch my wife die (she didn't die after all) while having virtually no support structure around me. The first time I saw "Loose Change: 2nd Edition" I totally fell for it, and when I found there was actually a community... I dove right in. I spent quite a while enthusiastically embracing and espousing the 9/11 CT dogma, and eventually became a moderator of their forum, which led me to have to deal with skeptics who posted there before we banned them. By the time the original LC forum imploded (I deserve some credit for causing that BTW) I had serious doubts about the 9/11 CT and other CTs. I began digesting a lot of material from the 'other side' after that. Frankly, I was embarrassed that I had ever spoke to people about 9/11, distributed DVDs, and exposed other people to such nonsense.

I eventually realized that I had been submerged in some sort of cult or religion rather than a legitimate movement. It frightened me. I began reevaluating everything else I believed that had the CT tinge on it. I consulted skeptical websites regarding everything from cryptozoology to UFOs. Instead of simply taking other people's words for it, I looked at their reasoning, and it made sense. I began looking at everything critically, and I lost even the most vestigial remnants of religion, I became fascinated by evolution and astronomy and all the other real things out there that are so much more amazing, interesting, and dramatic than anything you can cook up beneath a tinfoil hat.

It works. Just counterpointing stuff on the internet does get through to people, at least some people. Nowadays I find myself using 'reply to all' whenever I get some FEMA camp CT chain email in my inbox, showing everyone that it's really a picture of a camp in north Korea. Nobody who has ever said anything about 2012 around me has walked away still believing the world would end as prophesied by the Maya. I regularly listen to the SGU, Skeptoid, and The Atheist Experience podcasts as well as many other skeptical/atheist podcasts. Now I've gone and joined what I once considered the most evil, close-minded forum on the internets. Skeptics do convince the believers.
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Old 24th August 2009, 10:46 PM   #37
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Welcome to the forums, Temecula.

Thank you for sharing your story, we do get a number of ex-CTists around here.
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Old 24th August 2009, 10:52 PM   #38
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Hi Temecula

Nice post!
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Old 25th August 2009, 12:25 AM   #39
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I remember banning and suspending people from the JREF forum dozens of times. I would always try to make sure that the email they got when being permanently suspended included some over-the-top insult. I felt pretty bad about it once i realized that although many of them were quite condescending, they were in fact right, and I was wrong.
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Old 25th August 2009, 12:54 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by Temecula View Post
I remember banning and suspending people from the JREF forum dozens of times. I would always try to make sure that the email they got when being permanently suspended included some over-the-top insult. I felt pretty bad about it once i realized that although many of them were quite condescending, they were in fact right, and I was wrong.

Eh, life goes on. Do you recognize any names here from your time at LCF?
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