Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stupid Skeptic Tricks

Thanks to Russell for this one, which he brings up in the context of the discussion of the paranormal. I think I've seen these before in the context of, well, other things.

Of course, some people may want to argue about whether these are really stupid.

37 comments:

Russell said...

Glad to be of service.

Russell said...

Ps.

Dr. Reppert,

Any idea why my comments on the other post keep disappearing?

Victor Reppert said...

Ask Blogger. I have had other complaints about system screwiness.

Tory said...

That was a really good summary and very enlightening! Thanks for the link.

John W. Loftus said...

Yeah, well in the same spirit why atheists can't win.

Russell said...

Mr. Loftus,

Shoddy debating tactics are not the sole purview of one particular group, something you should know. The article I linked to said as much:

To be fair, some of these tricks or tactics (such as "The Big Lie," "Doubtcasting" and "The Sneer") are often used by believers as well as skeptics. Scientifc Creationists and Holocaust Revisionists, for example, are particularly prone to use "Doubtcasting."

As to the article you linked to we can have some fun with by just replacing a few words:

If theists don't offer specific arguments and evidence supporting theism, we get told, "See? theism is just a matter of blind faith." But when we do provide evidence and arguments for our position, we get accused of proselytizing.

Or

When we speak out in any way about our theism -- and when we continue to organize, and to make ourselves and our ideas more visible and vocal, and to generally turn ourselves into a serious movement for social change -- we get accused of being hostile, fanatical, rude, evangelical, bigoted, and extremist.

But if we don't speak out, if we don't organize, if we don't forge ourselves into a powerful and visible movement... then the bigotry and misinformation and discrimination against us will continue unabated.


See? All those rhetorical gambits Christina's post complains about is or has been used against theists by atheists.

Brenda said...

"Skeptics are often highly skilled at tying up opponents in clever verbal knots."

It's called logic and reason. It isn't knotty for everyone.

"1.) RAISING THE BAR"

I saw nothing in that list out of the ordinary. Every scientific claim goes through intense review and examination. It's called peer review, and that's only the beginning. Don't cry because you can't handle it in the big leagues.

"2.) SOCK 'EM WITH OCCAM:"

Occam's razor is absolutely indispensable to science. If your theory can't pass that test, you aren't doing science. You're doing theology.

"3.) EXTRAORDINARY CLAIMS:"

Require extraordinary evidence. Yes they do. Just ask Fleishman and Ponds.

"4.) STUPID, CRAZY LIARS:"

Carl Sargent committed scientific fraud. So have many other "psi" researchers. The field is rife with frauds, hucksters and con artists. That tends to happen when all you have is BS.

"5.) THE SANTA CLAUS GAMBIT:"

If your research methods can't distinguish between Santa Claus and reality you have a problem.

"6.) SHIFTING THE BURDEN OF EVIDENCE:"

This is as it should be. YOU have to prove your theory.

"7.) YOU CAN'T PROVE A NEGATIVE:"

"When we know one thing to be true, then we also know that whatever flatly contradicts it is untrue."

I agree. Claims for psychic phenomenon violate all known laws of physics. Therefore it is extremely unlikely to be real.

BenYachov said...

I tend to be skeptical about claims of psychic phenomena but I see no logic in using sophistry, defending sophistry and general bad argument in making a case against psychic phenomena.

It seems to me if psychic phenomena is not legit then it does no service to psychic skepticism to argue in this manner.

Mind you the use of bad arguments doesn't show you must be wrong & your opponent right or vice-versa.

But it does show you are intellectually lazy and should either strive to improve or get out the way & let more rationally competent person do the heavy lifting.

Brenda said...

"the use of bad arguments doesn't show you must be wrong"

Actually, it does.

Russell said...

Actually, it does.

Irony alert.

BenYachov said...

>Actually, it does.

I reply: So Brenda, think about what you are saying and apply it logically. If I where to now make a bad argument for Atheism then Atheism must be wrong because my argument is bad?

Because that is what you are saying.

I can't believe you can't grasp the simple concept about being right in general but being wrong in specifics.

Irony indeed.

BenYachov said...

I think Brenda is confusing the concept of a successful vs non-successful argument with a poorly formed argument(one based on sophistry, logical fallacies etc).

Russell said...

Brenda,

Just a quick question. How come you bash Sagan while at the same time defend 'extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence'? You may not know this but Sagan was the one who popularized that rhetorical device.

One Brow said...

Russell said...
Irony alert.

No irony.

BenYachov said...
I reply: So Brenda, think about what you are saying and apply it logically. If I where to now make a bad argument for Atheism then Atheism must be wrong because my argument is bad?

Because that is what you are saying.


A person being wrong does not make the argument they are using right, wrong, nor anything inbetween. I agree with Brenda that people who use bad arguments are in fact wrong, regardless of whether the position they support happens to be correct or not. Because if they are using bad argument techniques, the accuracy of their position is coincidence, not demonstration.

I can't believe you can't grasp the simple concept about being right in general but being wrong in specifics.

I have not trouble at all believing that you fail to understand the difference between being right by coincidence and making an accurate argument.

Russell said...

One Brow,

Brenda did not say that people who use bad arguments are in fact wrong, regardless of whether the position they support happens to be correct or not. She said the use of bad arguments shows you must be wrong.

And the irony comes from the fact that in the last two days Brenda has made liberal use of multiple bad arguments including, but not limited, to arguments from ignorance, ad hominem and poisoning the well. So by your reasoning, and by hers as well, she is wrong.

One Brow said...

First off, it's complaints that skeptics demand evidential standards of paranormal claims that they don't of mainstream science.

And Sagan committed fraud?

If you go back and re-read, I believe you will see she said Carl Sargent, not Carl Sagan.

That is the first I have heard of it, do you have any sources to back that claim up? And if you think mainstream science is exempt from fraud think again.

That is why the emphasis is so great on claims that can be independently verified.

I can and will attempt to prove my theories.

Theories can’t be proven, only confirmed. They can’t be confirmed by one person, but by having been repeatedly, independently tested by a large group of people. Further, theories have mechanisms. Until you have a mechanism for a certain paranormal observation, you don’t have a theory. Mechanism allow for other types of testing to be conceived and executed.

You also have a responsibility to prove your side of the argument, why your position is correct and why I am in the wrong. Mindlessly repeating 'science says' without providing evidence to back that up does not cut it.

You have no mechanism, so you have no foundation for your belief. Thus, you are wrong, simply because you are arguing wrongly.

You obviously did not read to that Psychology Today article otherwise you would have noticed the part that starts with the truth is that these effects are actually pretty consistent with modern physics' take on time and space.

It brought to light the result of one person. Until there is a mechanism and independent verification, it’s just an anomaly.

Just a quick question. How come you bash Sagan while at the same time defend 'extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence'?

Thinking that the reliability of Sagan himself is at all indicative of the reliability of a principle he promoted is highly fallacious.

One Brow said...

Brenda did not say that people who use bad arguments are in fact wrong, regardless of whether the position they support happens to be correct or not.

That is exactly how I interpreted her very brief response. You are free to impose any meaning you wish upon that response, no matter how inconsistent it is with what she has previously typed, of course. That does not make your imposition persuasive nore accurate. If you support evolution by making an argument humans are more evolved than monkeys, you are wrong, period, regardless of the accuracy of evolution.

And the irony comes from the fact that in the last two days ...

I have only read comments made in this thread, and reserve any judgement on other comments. She may have indeed been wrong at times. Everyone is.

Russell said...

One Brow,

I assumed that to be a typo because the essay only mentioned Carl Sagan, there is no mention of a Carl Sargent. And even if there was, Brenda did not exactly provide us with evidence that Sagan/Sargent committed fraud and last time I checked blatant accusations of dishonesty without evidence to back them up is ad hominem.

And I know why the emphasis is on claims to independently verified. You might want to speak to Brenda about that because Alex, JS Allen and I have asked her repeatedly for verification of her claims and have been given the run around.

You also might want to tell scientists like Dawkins that when they say evolution is proven. But if it makes you happy allow me to amend that statement, I will demonstrate the validity of theories in this debate.

I also merely provided that article as one example to counter Brenda's claim there is no evidence for psi phenomenon. We could also list others like Dean Radin's work. Alex in the previous debate also provided links to various studies which Brenda just ignored.

I agree with with you on Sagan but the point of fact still remains about what Brenda said. She likes to toss around fraud allegations as excuses to ignore research and researchers she doesn't like while failing to provide any evidence of fraud. That was my attempt to call her on it.

And considering how I have debated her for the past two days and watched her debate others for the past two days I imposed a meaning consistent with her previous posts and statements. And since this a continuation of a debate on the previous blog post, you might want to go and read her comments there before making claims about what she is saying.

John W. Loftus said...

The article Russell and Vic linked to was written by a skeptic, Jim Lippard. There is much I liked and some I didn't. Greta's link was not meant to answer Lippard, but just to show we can talk past each other too often.

BenYachov said...

>Brenda did not say that people who use bad arguments are in fact wrong, regardless of whether the position they support happens to be correct or not. She said the use of bad arguments shows you must be wrong.

It seems to me I was effectively saying the former & Brenda was saying the later.

Perhaps she misunderstood me.

Blue Devil Knight said...

The 'can't prove a negative' quip still happens way too much. I wonder what the origin of that myth is?

Brenda said...

BenYachov said...
"If I where to now make a bad argument for Atheism then Atheism must be wrong because my argument is bad?"

Ah yes, my bad. Sure, if you make a bad argument that 2 + 2 = 4 that doesn't imply that 2 + 2 = 4 is false. It means that your reasoning is wrong. Which is what I took "you are wrong" to mean.

Brenda said...

Russle said:
"And the irony comes from the fact that in the last two days Brenda has made liberal use of multiple bad arguments"

No I haven't. Please show where I have done that. And you need to actually demonstrate that I have used bad arguments. A formal demonstration will be acceptable, do you know how to do that?

Brenda said...

Russell said...
"I assumed that to be a typo because the essay only mentioned Carl Sagan, there is no mention of a Carl Sargent."

I guess I read you source deeper than you did.

Re: Ganzfield experiements
"In 1979, Susan Blackmore visited the laboratories of Carl Sargent in Cambridge. She noticed a number of irregularities in the procedure and wrote about them for the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research."

The short version is that Susan Blackmore exposed Carl Sargent as a fraud and he has since slithered back into obscurity. This was number four "4.) STUPID, CRAZY LIARS:" in the link where the ganzfield is discussed and the author whines about being called liars. My reply was meant to say "Well, yeah, there are frauds in the field."

One Brow said...

I assumed that to be a typo because the essay only mentioned Carl Sagan, there is no mention of a Carl Sargent.

You apparently also assumed that Carl Sagan was somehow a person Brenda would have identified as a "psi" researcher instead of a cosmologist.

And even if there was, Brenda did not exactly provide us with evidence that Sagan/Sargent committed fraud and last time I checked blatant accusations of dishonesty without evidence to back them up is ad hominem.

You apparently also assumed that Carl Sagan was somehow a person Brenda would have identified as a "psi" researcher instead of a cosmologist.

You might want to speak to Brenda about that because Alex, JS Allen and I have asked her repeatedly for verification of her claims and have been given the run around.

I see no reason this is relevant to the current discussion.

... scientists like Dawkins ... evolution is proven.

Are such people supposed to be immune to category errors? That Dawkins would make such a claim, if he made it at all, would merely show that he confused the notions of proof and evidence. Was I supposed to be impressed at an indirect, unsourced name-drop?

But if it makes you happy allow me to amend that statement, I will demonstrate the validity of theories in this debate.

Again, no one person or organization can do that.

I also merely provided that article as one example to counter Brenda's claim there is no evidence for psi phenomenon.

Until other, independent researchers verify Dr. Bem's results, there is still no evidence.

We could also list others like Dean Radin's work.

Dean Radin did no work with a supposed before-exposure ability to recognize words, so his work does not support Dr. Bem. Dr. Bem did no work on emotional responses to pictures, so his work does not support Radin. You can list as many different, unsupported, unduplicated results as you like. They mean nothing. For one thing, if you run 1,000 studies on random noise, guess how many typically return a significance value of 5%? Answer: 50.

… you might want to go and read her comments there before making claims about what she is saying.

Since she has already confirmed my interpretation, while acknowledging that it may not have been clearly stated, I feel no need to go to other posts.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to figure out what sick pleasure John Loftus is getting from having people address him as Brenda. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!)

BenYachov said...

>Sure, if you make a bad argument that 2 + 2 = 4 that doesn't imply that 2 + 2 = 4 is false.

So what you are saying now, all arguments are simple axiomatic exercises?

Seriously? I guess not.

>It means that your reasoning is wrong. Which is what I took "you are wrong" to mean.

I was clearly contrasting specifics with the general. God exists or does not exist. Evolution is true or not true...etc For example as a Thomist I believe Anselm's version of the Ontological argument is flawed but that doesn't mean I conclude from it "God does not exist". A modern scientist would say Lammark's theory of "acquired traits are inherited" is wrong that doesn't mean evolutionary transmophism didn't take place.

I thought it was obvious but if you just want to be contrary for it's own sake don't let me stop you.

BenYachov said...

>Please show where I have done that. And you need to actually demonstrate that I have used bad arguments.

I just want to say I could care less about the argument between Russell & Brenda on psychic phenomena.

But I would say the outline he gave on the fallacies of certain skeptics is in general correct (& of course it can apply to the arguments of non-skeptics).

Might I suggest Brenda you can in principle accept the outline but still argue none of it applies to any specific skeptical argument you made?

Consider that. Why make more work for yourself?(ie polemically psychic phenomena & trying to polemic the common sense in this essay. When you should concentrate on the former).

Just some friendly advice from a Theistic Skeptic of psychic phenomena.

Carry on.

Russell said...

One Brow,

Well, considering how Brenda also said that science has solved all of nature's mysteries and that there was nothing really left to discover, just to name one gem, you might understand why I would think that.

Also, you ignored the fact that Brenda accused Sargent of fraud without providing evidence to back it up. And considering how she has a tendency to spell my name 'Russle,' and has displayed marked ignorance of several scientific fields.

And I thought was it was relevant to our discussion because you jumped on my butt about verification but said nothing about how Brenda continues to make unsupported and unverified claims. But I have this sneaking suspicion that you are not concerned with fairness, merely with propping up Brenda.

And no, the name drop was not to impress you. Merely to point out that a lot of people use that expression and that you are being anal retentive about terminology.

And you are saying that one person can't show that there side is superior, has superior arguments and evidence, is more valid, in a debate with another person?

And I suppose we can discount Mendel's work because he used plants and Darwin's work because he used finches? We can list as many different, unsupported, unduplicated results as you like. They mean nothing. Unless, of course, they tie into each other. Mendel's genetics into Darwin's evolution, Radin and Bem's work tie into psychic research.

And considering how Brenda admitted she did not state her position clearly can you blame me or BenYachov for that interpretation?

Brenda said...

BenYachov said...
"So what you are saying now, all arguments are simple axiomatic exercises?"

Not simple but sure, all argument is the presentation of reasons for or against a proposition. All arguments should have a logical formal structure that can in principal be reduced to the predicate calculus. Arguments which violate the rules of logic are invalid.

One Brow said...

Well, considering how Brenda also said that science has solved all of nature's mysteries ...

Brenda did not post that. Whether you are being hyperbolic or merely have a bad memory, it makes you other recounting less believable.

Also, you ignored the fact that Brenda accused Sargent of fraud without providing evidence to back it up.

Fraud is probably too strong, since it implies motive. Improper protocols is more than sufficient to make his findings unreliable. Hopefully Brenda will also be more careful of her language in the future.

And I thought was it was relevant to our discussion because you jumped on my butt about verification but said nothing about how Brenda continues to make unsupported and unverified claims.

I didn't jump on you about your claims. I noted that the claims of parapsychology were unsubstantiated in large part due to a lack of verification. That you took this so personally also indicates a lack of reliability in your narration.

But I have this sneaking suspicion that you are not concerned with fairness, merely with propping up Brenda.

I would be unsurprsied if you require no further evidence than that.

Merely to point out that a lot of people use that expression ...

I have never read Dawkins using that expression. So far, my experience has been that the expression is used by people who don't understand what science is (even the occasional scientist).

And you are saying that one person can't show that there side is superior, has superior arguments and evidence, is more valid, in a debate with another person?

When you can show that, do so.

And I suppose we can discount Mendel's work because he used plants and Darwin's work because he used finches? We can list as many different, unsupported, unduplicated results as you like.

If you think the work of Mendel and/or Darwin was never tested nor verified independently, then you need to read into the history of the field.

They mean nothing. Unless, of course, they tie into each other. Mendel's genetics into Darwin's evolution,

That they tie into each other has little to do with them being verified.

Radin and Bem's work tie into psychic research.

That does not mean they verify each other.

... can you blame me ...

I try to avoid blame in post comments.

Victor Reppert said...

John: I think the post was from someone named DOwens on alt.paranormal, but it was posted on Lippard's site. Lippard is a skeptic, but he sometimes comes down hard on his fellow skeptics when he think they're cheating or using bad arguments. So he might have approved the message in large parts, though I can't see him writing it himself.

Brenda said...

I am not John Loftus. Get a grip people.

With regard to fraud:

"In 1979, Susan Blackmore visited the laboratories of Carl Sargent in Cambridge. She noticed a number of irregularities in the procedure and wrote about them for the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research."

It seems like deliberate fraud to me. I suppose I could be wrong but given the number of charlatans in fringe science I think the odds are with me.

Did I say that science has solved all mysteries?

No, however I would say that the scientific method (and we could have another whole discussion about what THAT means) is the only way of discovering facts about the world.

"Brenda continues to make unsupported and unverified claims."

Yeah, I can be blunt. I prefer to cut Gordian knots rather than sit there forever trying to unravel them. I can't spend the rest of my life trying to decide if all the myriad theories and fringe science claims are true or not. At some point you have to make an executive decision. I've made mine, but I AM open to real, irrefutable evidence.

I can haz evidence?

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop witing:

And I am open to "real, irrefutable evidence" that Brenda is not John Loftus. But I have yet to see any.

Can I haz some?

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, this link of yours got me thinking about atheism and the debates we have. I've concluded atheism can't win. We have it hard, very hard, whereas Christians like you have it easy.

Cheers.

Jake Elwood XVI said...

Mr Loftus you needed to include an eleventh reason as to why atheism can't win.

11) Atheism can’t win because its wrong.

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