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RE: A few thoughts

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  • JARDINE, Jeff
    ... Being new to this list, this looks like a good opportunity to state my personal opinions on the matter. I would like to see fewer cancer victims eschew
    Message 1 of 5 , Jul 26, 1999
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      > -----Original Message-----
      > From: Frank Sirett [SMTP:mistral5037@...]
      > Sent: Saturday, July 24, 1999 11:08 AM
      > To: skeptic@onelist.com
      > Subject: [skeptic] A few thoughts
      >
      > From: "Frank Sirett" <mistral5037@...>
      >
      > I would like to send in a few words here and see if I can kick-start a
      > discussion.
      >
      > What do we see as our place as sceptics? what is it that we are really
      > trying to accomplish?
      >
      Being new to this list, this looks like a good opportunity to state my
      personal opinions on the matter. I would like to see fewer cancer victims
      eschew modern treatment techniques in the false hope that a psychic healer
      will cure them completely, without the need for painful chemotherapy or
      amputations, with the horrible side-effect of enriching charlatans at the
      expense of the ill. I would like to see fewer resources (human and
      financial) dedicated to tax-exempt organized religions when there are
      hungry, homeless, or jobless people in need.

      I would like to see more resources funneled toward the research of things we
      know little about (including the paranormal), because I believe that on the
      whole science, directly or indirectly, improves human life. I think science
      is by far the single most important process we can use to progress as a
      species. In my opinion, science is far from perfect; it is sad that
      headlines produce funding, that personal biases impede progress, and that
      proper critical thought is (again, in my opinion) underused. Science is not
      a rigid, dogmatic structure in the same way organized religions are. To me,
      science is like a tower, with everything balanced on prior (admittedly
      precarious on occasion) conclusions which can be traced all the way back to
      first principles in the physical sciences. Things that can not be measured,
      experienced, or used within the reality described by science are not needed.
      If there are legitimate experiments, measurements, or observations of
      phenomena that are unaccounted for by the scientifically described reality,
      then science must be altered. After all, it's goal is to describe reality,
      and that exists in properly conducted experiments, measurements, or
      observations is a part of reality.

      > I subscribed to another sceptic mailing list for a while... Since most of
      > the
      > subscribers were scientists it was not allowed to question any science
      > that
      > they accepted and they used the weight of their positions on a number of
      > occassions to crush any dissension with this position.
      >
      To me, everyone is a scientist to some degree. Every day is an on-going
      experiment. To understand quantum theory, all one has to do is extend the
      same methods used to learn in every-day experiences (going to work, walking,
      using the telephone). The biggest pitfall is the human mind, the source of
      all bias. Believers in the paranormal too often refuse to accept that their
      mind and memory cannot be trusted, the placebo effect being the most blunt
      reminder.

      Jeff J
    • RODNEY GOMEZ
      Wow. Finally, the discussion on this group has become interesting. Thank you Frank. Let me add a few bits. The skeptic I am familiar with is the condescending,
      Message 2 of 5 , Jul 26, 1999
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        Wow. Finally, the discussion on this group has become interesting. Thank you
        Frank. Let me add a few bits.

        The skeptic I am familiar with is the condescending, angry sort. He
        bashes everyone who claims to have seen an alien starship, or a ghost in his
        house (etc.). He relishes in making people look stupid. He is the
        pharisaical one who says to his friends, "I have an open mind" and heaps
        scorn on all things that don't conform to his world view. His standard of
        evidence is, if used, a trick, a device. It is not science: he dismisses
        many claims out of hand, usually on the premise that they simply cannot be,
        when presented with data he interprets it in a way that is almost
        contadictory to his own past interpretations of similiar facts, and he is
        relentless in spouting the demand for proof, proof, proof. The proof is
        usually what satisfies him, what is accepted by him. This is the worst sort
        of skeptic, but I think he is legion.
        The 'bad' skeptic above seems to me to have found a kind of certainty.
        He does not say that he has arrived at the best conclusions, only that he
        has arrived at the only conclusions. And to think this is to be in a very
        bad way, because it seems to rule out the new, the strange, the weird -- all
        the things that provide ample opportunity to ferret out knowledge.
        Of course I don't think this is what a skeptic should be. A skeptic, in
        my mind, does not deal in certainties, but in probabilities. He recognizes
        that his own epistemological position, whatever it might be, can just as
        easily fall like a house of cards with some new development, some new
        standard of proof. He investigates, yes, and when he has gathered in all the
        facts he looks to the most reasonable* explanation. He does not dismiss the
        possibility of an alternate explanation. He does not, for instance, offer
        million dollar prizes to people who can beat him at his own game (which, if
        he is clever enough, is designed to be unbeatable).
        an

        * There is that ugly old word again, 'reasonable.' I wish people would stop
        using that silly word. "You are being inconsistent, based on your past
        behavior" would be much nicer and much closer to the spirit of what every
        skeptic wants (for one thing, an increase in critical thinking). I use the
        word here only to illustrate the point.

        --Rodney Gomez
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