Amazing Randi Telegraph (UK Newspaper) Article

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Sciborg_S_Patel

#2
Hmmmmm....

More recently I’ve begun to wonder about his educational foundation, the JREF, which claims tax exempt status in the US and is partly dependant on public donations. I wondered what actual educative work the organisation - which between 2011 and 2013 had an average revenue of $1.2 million per year - did. Financial documents reveal just $5,100, on average, being spent on grants.

There are some e-books, videos and lesson plans on subjects such as fairies on their website. They organise an annual fan convention. James Randi, over that period, has been paid an average annual salary of $195,000. My requests for details of the educational foundation’s educational activities, over the last 12 months, were dodged and then ignored.
 
#3
I found this comment interesting: " I began to notice there also were plenty of people in the sceptical-atheist movement who seemed to suffer from the same biases and accidents of reasoning as the eccentrics."

What would be surprising is if this weren't the case!

What many people - including many skeptics - don't realise is that we are all biased to one extent or another. Being a proponent of skepticsm does not remove that bias. It helps one to identify it. Skepticsm is not a cure for bias, it helps treat the symptoms of it! Our biases are still there - and they are not easily overcome!

This is the reason why promoting skepticsm is important.
 
#4
I found this comment interesting: " I began to notice there also were plenty of people in the sceptical-atheist movement who seemed to suffer from the same biases and accidents of reasoning as the eccentrics."

What would be surprising is if this weren't the case!

What many people - including many skeptics - don't realise is that we are all biased to one extent or another. Being a proponent of skepticsm does not remove that bias. It helps one to identify it. Skepticsm is not a cure for bias, it helps treat the symptoms of it! Our biases are still there - and they are not easily overcome!

This is the reason why promoting skepticsm is important.
I'd even go as far as saying that it is not even possible to totally overcome bias. Humans will always be biased. Even if you know you are and you want to avoid it, you will still be biased towards something.
 
#7
I guess the next logical question is, knowing we're all biased, who should promote skepticism, and how should it be promoted?
We all should! Unfortunately, not many do! Personally I think a course on critical thinking should be mandatory in high school.

There's a lot I don't like about the way the skeptic organisations go about it but as I've said before, I'm grateful to them for bringing it to my attention.
 
#8
We all should! Unfortunately, not many do! Personally I think a course on critical thinking should be mandatory in high school.

There's a lot I don't like about the way the skeptic organisations go about it but as I've said before, I'm grateful to them for bringing it to my attention.
To be honest, im thinking about sceptic organisations as not being really sceptical. They mean something different with that these days. Some of them hide behind the meaning of being sceptical.
 
#10
To be honest, im thinking about sceptic organisations as not being really sceptical. They mean something different with that these days. Some of them hide behind the meaning of being sceptical.
I think it's more accurate to say that they are not perfectly skeptical in practice. That said: they do specifically and directly promote skeptical thinking. And they are largely the only ones doing it on any kind of large scale. Unless things have changed (which would be great!) they sure aren't promoting it in our schools!
 
#11
I guess the first requirement is to understand the meaning of the term. Someone like Raymond Moody might be a good place to start.
What's his definition? I'll give you mine Skepticism is the withholding of belief in a proposition/claim absent sufficient and reliable evidence. A skeptical method is one that assesses the sufficiency and reliability (including the validity) of the evidence supporting a claim.
 
#12
We all should! Unfortunately, not many do! Personally I think a course on critical thinking should be mandatory in high school.

There's a lot I don't like about the way the skeptic organisations go about it but as I've said before, I'm grateful to them for bringing it to my attention.
The challenge I have with this is we already have organizations on both sides of the aisle who report to be "skeptical." JREF, Dawkins Foundation, CSICOP, etc., are debunkers of paranormal phenomenon, and on the other side SCEPCOP, Open Sciences, etc., are debunkers of materialism. In between is a fire-scorched No Man's Land where no one's getting an inch of territory on the other.

The Oxford Dictionary doesn't help too well with the definition of skepticism, which is listed as a skeptical attitude (thanks, didn't know that :P). So I looked up skeptical, which is defined as "not easily convinced; having doubts or reservations." I don't think that helps much either because who's to say how much is "easily" not convinced?

So I'm taking up my own definition of skepticism, as accepting or denying data and conclusions from data in spite of one's own beliefs. Which to me makes the Buddhists the best skeptics we have in the world.
 
#13
The challenge I have with this is we already have organizations on both sides of the aisle who report to be "skeptical." JREF, Dawkins Foundation, CSICOP, etc., are debunkers of paranormal phenomenon, and on the other side SCEPCOP, Open Sciences, etc., are debunkers of materialism. In between is a fire-scorched No Man's Land where no one's getting an inch of territory on the other.
What I'm talking about is the promotion of skeptical methodology as distinct from the application of it. The tools to evaluate claims including (but not limited to):
  • critical thinking
  • the identification of logical fallacies
  • how bias can impact on our views
  • the role of the scientific method
  • the importance of methodology
The Oxford Dictionary doesn't help too well with the definition of skepticism, which is listed as a skeptical attitude (thanks, didn't know that :P). So I looked up skeptical, which is defined as "not easily convinced; having doubts or reservations."
That is a common definition of skepticsm - but it is not what the skeptic organisations mean by skepticism.

So I'm taking up my own definition of skepticism, as accepting or denying data and conclusions from data in spite of one's own beliefs. Which to me makes the Buddhists the best skeptics we have in the world.
I think your definition is implicit in mine, but yours is missing any kind of direction about how we should be evaluating evidence or deriving conclusions.
 
#14
What I'm talking about is the promotion of skeptical methodology as distinct from the application of it. The tools to evaluate claims including (but not limited to):
  • critical thinking
  • the identification of logical fallacies
  • how bias can impact on our views
  • the role of the scientific method
  • the importance of methodology
Yes, I love it! You should make a thread of it, so we could refer to it in future forum discussions.

I think your definition is implicit in mine, but yours is missing any kind of direction about how we should be evaluating evidence or deriving conclusions.
Yes, well, that's because I'm an adorable sky-bison, not a wordsmith.
 
#15
I made this post in the main podcast thread by accident, thought I was in this thread:

Will just sent me this: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/...andi-debunking-the-king-of-the-debunkers.html

Amazing :) I love the part about Randi claiming that he was self-taught from the age of 12 due to the special library access he was given. Sadly, I'm not sure we all understood the joke he's been playing on us... or maybe he's been playing it on himself.
That was a strange statement. I don't see a link. It seems to be a variation of this article: http://www.sptimes.com/Floridian/41498/The__quack__hunter.html

Randi placed out of sixth through eighth grades, but because there were no gifted programs then, he was given a pass to the reference room at the Toronto Public Library. On his own, Randi studied everything from calculus to Egyptian hieroglyphics. At 17 he dropped out of high school and joined a carnival road show as Prince Ibis, the all-knowing wizard in a turban.

Which makes a lot more sense!
 
#16
I found this comment interesting: " I began to notice there also were plenty of people in the sceptical-atheist movement who seemed to suffer from the same biases and accidents of reasoning as the eccentrics."
What would be surprising is if this weren't the case!
What many people - including many skeptics - don't realise is that we are all biased to one extent or another. Being a proponent of skepticsm does not remove that bias. It helps one to identify it.
I think this is a gross understatement. I believe the complaint being levied here is that they are not agnostics promoting reason, they are "true believers" who have simply replaced what their religious idols are to something else.

critical thinking
This is, really, just a marketing term. I've seen some of the assigned reading from college professors, and the books involved were almost directly geared towards training debunkers (such as every example being used to mock UFO'ers for instance.) In one case it conflated an argument being bad logic for sample size (the example was "I put this crystal to my forehead and my headache got better", cited as a logical fallacy for having too small of a sample size; that is not a fallacy of reasoning, as sample size is a topic argued by scientists and not philosophers.)

A person does not need to be trained in "critical thinking". They need only be shown how to do formal logic, which is a process of building new thoughts along a supportable framework--critthink advocates generally bring up their flavor as a tool for deconstructing and debunking, which is the opposite of why logic was invented in the first place!
 
#17
This is, really, just a marketing term. I've seen some of the assigned reading from college professors, and the books involved were almost directly geared towards training debunkers (such as every example being used to mock UFO'ers for instance.)
I don't particularly care what you call it - there are a number of ways one could design such a course, and a number of ways one could promote these skills.

In one case it conflated an argument being bad logic for sample size (the example was "I put this crystal to my forehead and my headache got better", cited as a logical fallacy for having too small of a sample size; that is not a fallacy of reasoning, as sample size is a topic argued by scientists and not philosophers.)
I'd have to see the actual quotation, but again, doesn't really matter - like I said, there are different ways one could present the material . The important thing is to teach the skills.

A person does not need to be trained in "critical thinking". They need only be shown how to do formal logic, which is a process of building new thoughts along a supportable framework
I've taken a course in formal logic. I'm not saying it wasn't useful, and I enjoyed the puzzle aspect of it - but it was pretty divorced from the kind of critical thinking we need in day to day life.

--critthink advocates generally bring up their flavor as a tool for deconstructing and debunking, which is the opposite of why logic was invented in the first place!
Again: my point is that it is important to teach these skills and that from what I can see, the skeptic groups are really the only groups publicizing this on a wide scale. It doesn't have to be this way - if our education systems put a bigger focus on these skills, the skeptical movement would become far less necessary.
 
#18
Again: my point is that it is important to teach these skills and that from what I can see, the skeptic groups are really the only groups publicizing this on a wide scale. It doesn't have to be this way - if our education systems put a bigger focus on these skills, the skeptical movement would become far less necessary.
Now, under your personal definition of skepticism and the skeptical method correctly, if I understand them correctly, where would the folks fall who were trained as materialists/physicalists, found data which challenged their beliefs, assessed the reliability, sufficiency, and validity of the evidence for materialism, and concluded other ideas (let's lump them under the term "non-physicalistic" for now) as having more weight?

While they of course would not have the infrastructure to publicize their research on the same scale as Skeptical Inquirer, Pharyngula, etc., would they not also be skeptics by using what you see as the skeptical method?

Mind you, I'm not saying you have to agree with people like Dr. Eben Alexander, Dr. Brian Weiss, etc., I'm hoping perhaps we can establish a common agreement on terms, which seems to trip up so many people on here before their ideas can even get off the ground.
 
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