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Skeptics...a philosophical discussion

Jeff Crowell

Paranormal Annoyance
I've noticed quite a few people on the forums claiming themselves to be skeptics and have to question such a claim. There are differences in people who are truly skeptics and people who are skeptical thinkers.

A skeptic is someone who questions everything, and ONLY believes in something that can be empirically proven and replicated (five senses only). They don't just doubt, they disbelieve everything else. Someone who's a skeptical thinker questions everything but is willing to accept some concepts based on the preponderance of evidence or weight of particular arguments. This is also known as critical thinking, and such thinkers aren't likely to take a story of a haunting or UFO abduction too seriously unless they come across personally associative evidence or stories they can directly relate to. Critical thinkers can be skeptical on individual concepts but give some measure of believe in other concepts within any particular field. For instance a critical thinker may believe in aerial unidentified phenomena but be skeptical regarding abductions and contactee claims.

I find it hard to believe that a genuine skeptic would make a home here, on the Paracast, a podcast/website/forum devoted and dedicated to research and discussion on the paranormal (please note, when I use the term 'paranormal' I'm referring to UFO's as well, though some UFO researchers consider the paranormal separate. In this case, I'm not.). A true skeptic couldn't stomach the discussion for much longer than a week or less because every concept would be too outrageous for them.

Here's an example; if you gathered all the UFO encounters for continental United States for the year 2009, say, and weed out conventional and unconventional human aircraft, weather phenomena, hallucinations, mistaken identity, and sensory mis-identification, you'll still have about 2 to 3 percent of the reports titled as "unexplained." I've heard as high as 5 to 10% actually, but people of an open minded nature, even critical thinkers, would say that such a number indicates that something of a paranormal nature is going on. "True believers" would say that number was higher, and not whittle it down as much. A true skeptic, however, will say the number of genuinely paranormal UFO encounters is a resounding 0%. A skeptic would state that the remaining 2 to 3% still falls into the other categories, somewhere, and wouldn't accept that any claim of encounter would be genuinely paranormal in nature.

Based on that, a true skeptic wouldn't have any reason to participate on a website such as the Paracast, and it's my strong opinion that, even the most resounding 'skeptical' person who does participate on this website has some level of belief in the existence of (paranormal) UFOs.

Am I wrong in that? Are there people who honestly disregard every claim of a UFO sighting or contact that participate here on the forums and listen to this podcast? I'm interested to know.
 

Angel of Ioren

Friendly Skeptic
I consider myself a critical thinker and a skeptic in the same way James Randi and Michael Shermer are. So I guess I should not be here then? When I joined here I was skeptical of everything but UFOs, in that I considered that there could be something other-worldly involved. I have changed my opinion since then. Once good evidence comes around to prove me wrong, I'll gladly change my tune again.
Maybe Ray Stanford will come through with his promise to show us something substantial, but i am not holding my breath.
 

tyder001

Paranormal Adept
I've noticed quite a few people on the forums claiming themselves to be skeptics and have to question such a claim. There are differences in people who are truly skeptics and people who are skeptical thinkers.

A skeptic is someone who questions everything, and ONLY believes in something that can be empirically proven and replicated (five senses only). They don't just doubt, they disbelieve everything else. Someone who's a skeptical thinker questions everything but is willing to accept some concepts based on the preponderance of evidence or weight of particular arguments. This is also known as critical thinking, and such thinkers aren't likely to take a story of a haunting or UFO abduction too seriously unless they come across personally associative evidence or stories they can directly relate to. Critical thinkers can be skeptical on individual concepts but give some measure of believe in other concepts within any particular field. For instance a critical thinker may believe in aerial unidentified phenomena but be skeptical regarding abductions and contactee claims.

I find it hard to believe that a genuine skeptic would make a home here, on the Paracast, a podcast/website/forum devoted and dedicated to research and discussion on the paranormal (please note, when I use the term 'paranormal' I'm referring to UFO's as well, though some UFO researchers consider the paranormal separate. In this case, I'm not.). A true skeptic couldn't stomach the discussion for much longer than a week or less because every concept would be too outrageous for them.

Here's an example; if you gathered all the UFO encounters for continental United States for the year 2009, say, and weed out conventional and unconventional human aircraft, weather phenomena, hallucinations, mistaken identity, and sensory mis-identification, you'll still have about 2 to 3 percent of the reports titled as "unexplained." I've heard as high as 5 to 10% actually, but people of an open minded nature, even critical thinkers, would say that such a number indicates that something of a paranormal nature is going on. "True believers" would say that number was higher, and not whittle it down as much. A true skeptic, however, will say the number of genuinely paranormal UFO encounters is a resounding 0%. A skeptic would state that the remaining 2 to 3% still falls into the other categories, somewhere, and wouldn't accept that any claim of encounter would be genuinely paranormal in nature.

Based on that, a true skeptic wouldn't have any reason to participate on a website such as the Paracast, and it's my strong opinion that, even the most resounding 'skeptical' person who does participate on this website has some level of belief in the existence of (paranormal) UFOs.

Am I wrong in that? Are there people who honestly disregard every claim of a UFO sighting or contact that participate here on the forums and listen to this podcast? I'm interested to know.


Great Post! Hit's it on the head. :) I am absolutely a "Skeptical Thinker" by your definition. But not a skeptic. I wouldn't last two minutes on the jimmy randi forum. Then again I wouldn't waste my time there. :) Anyway, I honestly think this is the best post pertaining to the difference between skeptics and skeptical thinkers (had never really thought about that term)that I have read.
 

Sean Elifritz

Administrator
Great Post! Hit's it on the head. :) I am absolutely a "Skeptical Thinker" by your definition. But not a skeptic. I wouldn't last two minutes on the jimmy randi forum. Then again I wouldn't waste my time there. :) Anyway, I honestly think this is the best post pertaining to the difference between skeptics and skeptical thinkers (had never really thought about that term)that I have read.

I've never been to that forum but I can imagine. Places like that have always been a bit of a mystery to me. Can't figure out what it is that causes somebody that thinks something is hogwash to want to talk about it endlessly. I don't believe in the Loch Ness Monster, Sasquatch, a still-living Elvis Presley, the Shroud of Turn, or quite a few other things and since I don't why would I want to go to a forum dedicated to those subjects to talk about them?
 

Sean Elifritz

Administrator
I consider myself a critical thinker and a skeptic in the same way James Randi and Michael Shermer are. So I guess I should not be here then? When I joined here I was skeptical of everything but UFOs, in that I considered that there could be something other-worldly involved. I have changed my opinion since then. Once good evidence comes around to prove me wrong, I'll gladly change my tune again.
Maybe Ray Stanford will come through with his promise to show us something substantial, but i am not holding my breath.

I hope that isn't true. You might consider yourself to be in the mold of those people but hopefully you really are not. It's one thing to adhere to a strict scientific viewpoint where nothing is accepted until it has been proven beyond all doubt. But the men you just mentioned go further than that. They deliberately omit and distort data (Just like Dunning did in his treatment of the Hill case that we talked about) to strengthen their talking points. Those are not the actions of men of science but of people with axes to grind.
 

Angel of Ioren

Friendly Skeptic
Are you asking me...or yourself?

I'm asking you.

---------- Post added at 03:24 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:21 PM ----------

I hope that isn't true. You might consider yourself to be in the mold of those people but hopefully you really are not. It's one thing to adhere to a strict scientific viewpoint where nothing is accepted until it has been proven beyond all doubt. But the men you just mentioned go further than that. They deliberately omit and distort data (Just like Dunning did in his treatment of the Hill case that we talked about) to strengthen their talking points. Those are not the actions of men of science but of people with axes to grind.

In my experience, i don't find that they do that. How many times have you seen Randi or Shermer discuss these topics? I can tell you that I've read, listened, and watched tons of their material. Same thing with Brian Dunning, he doesn't distort facts. He's actually very careful in making sure he doesn't do that.
 

Sean Elifritz

Administrator
I'm asking you.

---------- Post added at 03:24 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:21 PM ----------



In my experience, i don't find that they do that. How many times have you seen Randi or Shermer discuss these topics? I can tell you that I've read, listened, and watched tons of their material. Same thing with Brian Dunning, he doesn't distort facts. He's actually very careful in making sure he doesn't do that.

And you seem to be getting your information a bit too much from just that one side. I was shocked when you admitted to me that you didn't know that Barney Hill claimed to have seen through binoculars alien beings staring back at him and that he claimed this from day one. The only people that omit this important detail are the debunkers because it is enormously inconvenient to them when selling their argument that Barney thought nothing of the event until Betty later corrupted him with her dream material. Had you read any of the treatments prepared by people from the other side of the debate or those in the middle you surely would have known about that.
 

Angel of Ioren

Friendly Skeptic
And you seem to be getting your information a bit too much from just that one side. I was shocked when you admitted to me that you didn't know that Barney Hill claimed to have seen through binoculars alien beings staring back at him and that he claimed this from day one. The only people that omit this important detail are the debunkers because it is enormously inconvenient to them when selling their argument that Barney thought nothing of the event until Betty later corrupted him with her dream material. Had you read any of the treatments prepared by people from the other side of the debate or those in the middle you surely would have known about that.

I still don't think that they were abducted by aliens. Also, didn't he remember seeing the figures after Betty started having her dreams?
 

Sean Elifritz

Administrator
I still don't think that they were abducted by aliens. Also, didn't he remember seeing the figures after Betty started having her dreams?

Lol, nice redirection. The question wasn't whether or not they were abducted by aliens but whether those sorts of "researchers" omit and distort data. And they most certainly do.

He remembered seeing the beings through binoculars from the very beginning, since the very day the event happened. That was never wiped from his memory. No hypnosis was necessary to recall that detail.
 

Jeff Crowell

Paranormal Annoyance
I'm asking you.

Well, not that you should base any actions on my humble opinion, but I'd say if you're not getting anything else out of The Paracast and if you're far-and-removed from any semblance of belief in UFO's or the other paranormal phenomena discussed here, I'd say no, you shouldn't be here. It's just that if you get to the point that you're doing nothing more than arguing with people, get no enjoyment in your participation here, and ultimately think we're all idiots for even the smallest level of belief in the paranormal, you may want to reconsider hanging around when all it does is frustrate you.

However, even if you're just curious and still somewhat open minded about the subject matter, and maybe a little bit on the hopefully believing side, then of course you should be here.
 

Angel of Ioren

Friendly Skeptic
Trust me, as it stands right now, I don't think that there's anything paranormal going on in the world. Perhaps there's something "perinormal" as Richard Dawkins would say, meaning that it's something that we don't understand right now, but is a natural phenomenon that we will eventually explain.
 

Kandinsky

Curious Cat
I sometimes think that 'skeptics' and 'believers' need a good kick up the ass. They/we often align themselves with one of two positions and inevitably start picking the petals off a flower...'She loves me...she loves me not.' Is anything in life so simple?

We're all individuals with in-built, adaptable quirks of thought that straddle untold thresholds of beliefs based on who knows what?! Realising and accepting these aspects is the easy part...where it leaves us is anyone's guess.

It's like approval and independent thinking are constantly in conflict. In the heart of every iconoclast is a square peg looking for a square hole and likewise the most conventional thinker has some glow worm of rebellion.

Us humans huh? Who'd be one?

:D
 

tyder001

Paranormal Adept
I do recommend reading don Eckers encounter with mikey shermer before "following" anything that ole mikey says as ethical. :) Also, Randi has been caught a few times screwing the pooch in order to "prove" his worldview. Denning, am I spelling that right? Isn't he the atheist that said that although he might be in the Dawkins camp he thought Dawkins arguments were very simple minded and somthing a first year theology student would be ashamed of? :)
 

grannysmith

Skilled Investigator
A skeptic is someone who questions everything, and ONLY believes in something that can be empirically proven and replicated (five senses only).

I would qualify that - what you outline here is empiricism. It is possible to be a skeptic and to take as 'proof' either empirical evidence or necessary constructs of reason when that is the relevant proof appropriate to the subject matter (typified in philosophy by Kant's critical philosophy). One can be a skeptic and accept that there are (in Kantian terminology) 'synthetic a priori truths' as well as a posteriori - empirical - ones.
 

Facius_Cardan

Skilled Investigator
A skeptic is someone who questions everything, and ONLY believes in something that can be empirically proven and replicated (five senses only). They don't just doubt, they disbelieve everything else. Someone who's a skeptical thinker questions everything but is willing to accept some concepts based on the preponderance of evidence or weight of particular arguments. This is also known as critical thinking, and such thinkers aren't likely to take a story of a haunting or UFO abduction too seriously unless they come across personally associative evidence or stories they can directly relate to. Critical thinkers can be skeptical on individual concepts but give some measure of believe in other concepts within any particular field. For instance a critical thinker may believe in aerial unidentified phenomena but be skeptical regarding abductions and contactee claims.
It's interesting to notice how labeling became an important factor of life, not just within the commonly called paranormal field. Maybe I'm wrong seeing myself as a skeptic. That erroneous assertion may come from the fact that english isn't my mother language and the meanings associated to the word "skeptic" may differ with from the ones we commonly use in portuguese (my main language).
The fact is that the stamp "skeptic" is often associated with people who are just plain deniers, refusing to think about subjects they preconceive as being a waste of time. Those who actually take a look (however superficial) at the available evidence only do it to prove their point (that's when skepticism frequently walks hand-in-hand with arrogance). I'm not that "kind" of skeptic.
One of the problems with phenomena such as UFO is that the variety of manifestations and general lack of solid evidence is so patent that anyone manages to fit in their particular approaches - from the rabid denier to the most outlandishly fanatic believer. The prevailing feeling I have is that this is a big messy field where concepts such as coherence, organization, clarity and critical thinking are absent.
 

Sean Elifritz

Administrator
I do recommend reading don Eckers encounter with mikey shermer before "following" anything that ole mikey says as ethical. :) Also, Randi has been caught a few times screwing the pooch in order to "prove" his worldview. Denning, am I spelling that right? Isn't he the atheist that said that although he might be in the Dawkins camp he thought Dawkins arguments were very simple minded and somthing a first year theology student would be ashamed of? :)

Read Dunning's short treatment on the Hill case. It is virtually encyclopedic as far as being a classic example of propaganda. There are numerous instances of omissions and distortions throughout. Any detail he doesn't like he simply fails to mention or twists around into something else. We can argue all day whether or not the Hills were abducted by aliens (I am not able to scientifically prove the existence of alien spacecraft anymore than I have the ability to personally prove the existence of the F-117 Nighthawk.) but there is no doubt that as much can be learned about the details of the case reading Dunning's "article" as could be gleamed from watching an episode of Dancing With The Stars.
 

Jeff Crowell

Paranormal Annoyance
Trust me, as it stands right now, I don't think that there's anything paranormal going on in the world. Perhaps there's something "perinormal" as Richard Dawkins would say, meaning that it's something that we don't understand right now, but is a natural phenomenon that we will eventually explain.

Oh, I'm with ya there. I've always thought the "para" part of "paranormal" was always temporary. Then again if we find the answer, we'll just be listing to "The Cast" from that point on.

---------- Post added at 04:50 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:47 PM ----------

I sometimes think that 'skeptics' and 'believers' need a good kick up the ass. They/we often align themselves with one of two positions and inevitably start picking the petals off a flower...'She loves me...she loves me not.' Is anything in life so simple?

We're all individuals with in-built, adaptable quirks of thought that straddle untold thresholds of beliefs based on who knows what?! Realising and accepting these aspects is the easy part...where it leaves us is anyone's guess.

It's like approval and independent thinking are constantly in conflict. In the heart of every iconoclast is a square peg looking for a square hole and likewise the most conventional thinker has some glow worm of rebellion.

Us humans huh? Who'd be one?

:D

Well I think it has to do with the duality of the human psyche. Good/bad, right/wrong. We always think in binary and it takes a great evolutionary leap to start thinking in analog. Doing so pushes that threshold of belief and normally leads to a strong, but sustainable paradigm shift. Sometimes, though, that shift is in the wrong direction, unfortunately, and it sets us back about 1,000 years.

---------- Post added at 04:59 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:50 PM ----------

I would qualify that - what you outline here is empiricism. It is possible to be a skeptic and to take as 'proof' either empirical evidence or necessary constructs of reason when that is the relevant proof appropriate to the subject matter (typified in philosophy by Kant's critical philosophy). One can be a skeptic and accept that there are (in Kantian terminology) 'synthetic a priori truths' as well as a posteriori - empirical - ones.

But I believe a true skeptic would say this (along those lines), "You "Kant" put the cart before the horse," as Kant was so oft to do. It's my humble opinion that a true skeptic would disregard a priori truths, depending only on the empirical data that is not only "speculated" (their view) but replicable in a posteriori fashion.

I do not believe a skeptic would lay claim to 'synthetic' truths without hypothesis/theory/law. Fundamentally, anything paranormal doesn't even qualify for the first level in that chain.
 

Frank Stalter

Paranormal Maven
I consider myself a critical thinker and a skeptic in the same way James Randi and Michael Shermer are. So I guess I should not be here then? When I joined here I was skeptical of everything but UFOs, in that I considered that there could be something other-worldly involved. I have changed my opinion since then. Once good evidence comes around to prove me wrong, I'll gladly change my tune again.
Maybe Ray Stanford will come through with his promise to show us something substantial, but i am not holding my breath.

Well I hope you reconsider your admiration for Shermer who doesn't seem to have any problem spouting complete lies as truth. Randi is a different story. His decades as a magician gave him all the background he needed to expose a certain type of fraudster with great credibility. All Shermer did was jump from one intellectual extreme, at one time he was a fundamentalist Christian who believed in the literal truth of the Bible, to another. Shermer's claims about UFOs betray his complete ignorance on the phenomenon. I'd happily take him on in a debate about the subject . . . . and win!
 

Jeff Crowell

Paranormal Annoyance
It's interesting to notice how labeling became an important factor of life, not just within the commonly called paranormal field. Maybe I'm wrong seeing myself as a skeptic. That erroneous assertion may come from the fact that english isn't my mother language and the meanings associated to the word "skeptic" may differ with from the ones we commonly use in portuguese (my main language).
The fact is that the stamp "skeptic" is often associated with people who are just plain deniers, refusing to think about subjects they preconceive as being a waste of time. Those who actually take a look (however superficial) at the available evidence only do it to prove their point (that's when skepticism frequently walks hand-in-hand with arrogance). I'm not that "kind" of skeptic.
One of the problems with phenomena such as UFO is that the variety of manifestations and general lack of solid evidence is so patent that anyone manages to fit in their particular approaches - from the rabid denier to the most outlandishly fanatic believer. The prevailing feeling I have is that this is a big messy field where concepts such as coherence, organization, clarity and critical thinking are absent.

Yes, terms and labeling are nasty habits, but would you agree that if we remove the 'mess' from the field, there would be something paranormal at the core?
 

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