Of Skeptics and Bannings

I mean one thing that has amazed me about Skeptiko, is that none of the skeptical contributors seem to want to engage in real discussion as opposed to verbal fencing - usually in the form of short quips.

David
I have found the same, but in the opposite direction. A while back, I took some time away from all internet forums for a year or so, and during that time, I went and re-examined my thinking about the paranormal, going right back to basics, using first-hand documentation whenever possible. Some views changed, others didn't.

Since I've been posting again at Skeptiko, I haven't seen any of this "real discussion" on topics that I've contributed to. Let me summarise:

I posted a thread about Stephan Schwartz's psychic archaeology. The only response was to refer me to some other, far more obscure researcher's use of psychic archaeology. No one wanted to discuss Schwartz's work.

I wrote about Project Star Gate, offering documentation to back up my claims that most of the hits claimed by various remote viewers were heavily fictionalised. The response was "That evidence is all forged!" (even though, after ten years, no one from the RV project itself has suggested the declassified papers are forged).

I debunked (quite soundly, I think) Gary Schwartz's Arizona Experiment, and nothing changed. The people who'd supported the experiments just sort of wandered off.

I discussed the experiments of Charles Richet, who Radin references as an early pioneer of parapsychology. This time I got a decent discussion, but we could never get past the fact that we disagreed on the evidential value placed on results from the initial, poor methods. (I just remembered: this was on the Scientific Debates forum, not Skeptiko)

Now, certainly the fact that I know nothing about NDEs limits how much I can contribute to the various threads, but when people discuss things that I do know about and I can contribute to, I do not see great discussions from people who have thoroughly researched this topic.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
I'm not sure if you're serious, Linda, but I sent Alex some suggestions last week that included your suggestion. To provide a 'fair and balanced' forum I suggested three top-level subforums (plus Admin), which might be summarized as having the following discussions:
  • Assuming materialism is largely incorrect (or at best a subset of a larger reality) ...
  • Is Materialism correct?
  • Assuming materialism is largely correct ...
This is okay, as long as everyone can post in every forum. Also, at least in my case, I will forget which forum I'm in. But I'll try not to.

I still don't understand why the Mod+ flag with an explanation of assumptions in the opening post doesn't fix the problem.

~~ Paul
 
C

chuck.drake

I have found the same, but in the opposite direction. A while back, I took some time away from all internet forums for a year or so, and during that time, I went and re-examined my thinking about the paranormal, going right back to basics, using first-hand documentation whenever possible. Some views changed, others didn't.

Since I've been posting again at Skeptiko, I haven't seen any of this "real discussion" on topics that I've contributed to. Let me summarise:

I posted a thread about Stephan Schwartz's psychic archaeology. The only response was to refer me to some other, far more obscure researcher's use of psychic archaeology. No one wanted to discuss Schwartz's work.

I wrote about Project Star Gate, offering documentation to back up my claims that most of the hits claimed by various remote viewers were heavily fictionalised. The response was "That evidence is all forged!" (even though, after ten years, no one from the RV project itself has suggested the declassified papers are forged).

I debunked (quite soundly, I think) Gary Schwartz's Arizona Experiment, and nothing changed. The people who'd supported the experiments just sort of wandered off.

I discussed the experiments of Charles Richet, who Radin references as an early pioneer of parapsychology. This time I got a decent discussion, but we could never get past the fact that we disagreed on the evidential value placed on results from the initial, poor methods. (I just remembered: this was on the Scientific Debates forum, not Skeptiko)

Now, certainly the fact that I know nothing about NDEs limits how much I can contribute to the various threads, but when people discuss things that I do know about and I can contribute to, I do not see great discussions from people who have thoroughly researched this topic.
Sometimes it seems to me what this forum is best at is pointing to new ideas or exposing one to new avenues of thought. I don't think it is terribly good at exploring any one particular topic in any real depth. I think if you look at a lot of the posts of those who are frustrated here, it has to do with that idea--that real in-depth discussion is not really something that occurs here for the most part. And then that frustration gets directed at people who have been labelled as disruptors--even if in some cases the label is technically correct. There have been exceptions, and maybe there were more examples of quality discussion before I began lurking here about a year ago, but mostly the benefit I gain from this forum is novelty--superficial exposure to some subject that I might want to pursue on my own time.
 
I'm not sure if you're serious, Linda, but I sent Alex some suggestions last week that included your suggestion. To provide a 'fair and balanced' forum I suggested three top-level subforums (plus Admin), which might be summarized as having the following discussions:
  • Assuming materialism is largely incorrect (or at best a subset of a larger reality) ...
  • Is Materialism correct?
  • Assuming materialism is largely correct ...
I am serious. But I don't mean divvying up the forum into materialism vs. anti-materialism sections. I mean leaving one section free of the assumption that everything has to be regarded as an ideological battleground. Most of what I post starts from an assumption that there is something to these ideas, and given that there is something to this, how would I go about studying and investigating various claims in a way which distinguishes what is false and what is true. I make all sorts of suggestions about how to go about gathering evidence for psi, including a discussion of where/why the data we have so far is insufficient. But because anti-materialists insist that everything has to be about an ideological battle, I can't even say that one study design would be more useful than another, or that a particular statistical method won't be valid under these conditions, without being pounced upon by dedicated defenders of anti-materialism.

Look at what happened in the AWARE thread when I tried to discuss the results of good quality experiments. Alex kicked me off the forum because the only thing I was supposed to take away from those experiments was Parnia's and Pim van Lommel's conversion to "believer". That is, unless I wanted to say something about how the results supported anti-materialism, he didn't want to hear from me.

I don't give a rats ass about materialism and anti-materialism.

Linda
 
If you begin from the position that consciousness is an epiphenomenon and that it originates from unconscious matter in the brain, then this comprises the entirety of what you have to say on the subject of consciousness. You're done.
What if you start from the position that it "might be" or "probably is"?
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
If you begin from the position that consciousness is an epiphenomenon and that it originates from unconscious matter in the brain, then this comprises the entirety of what you have to say on the subject of consciousness. You're done.
Apparently not, since I don't think consciousness is an epiphenomenon. Also, don't you think we could talk about how consciousness works, regardless of our position on its origin?

If you begin from the position that consciousness is a fundamental existent, then what do you have to say? Especially if you believe that full-blown human consciousness is the fundamental. Problem solved.

~~ Paul
 
I have found the same, but in the opposite direction. A while back, I took some time away from all internet forums for a year or so, and during that time, I went and re-examined my thinking about the paranormal, going right back to basics, using first-hand documentation whenever possible. Some views changed, others didn't.

Since I've been posting again at Skeptiko, I haven't seen any of this "real discussion" on topics that I've contributed to. Let me summarise:

I posted a thread about Stephan Schwartz's psychic archaeology. The only response was to refer me to some other, far more obscure researcher's use of psychic archaeology. No one wanted to discuss Schwartz's work.

I wrote about Project Star Gate, offering documentation to back up my claims that most of the hits claimed by various remote viewers were heavily fictionalised. The response was "That evidence is all forged!" (even though, after ten years, no one from the RV project itself has suggested the declassified papers are forged).

I debunked (quite soundly, I think) Gary Schwartz's Arizona Experiment, and nothing changed. The people who'd supported the experiments just sort of wandered off.

I discussed the experiments of Charles Richet, who Radin references as an early pioneer of parapsychology. This time I got a decent discussion, but we could never get past the fact that we disagreed on the evidential value placed on results from the initial, poor methods. (I just remembered: this was on the Scientific Debates forum, not Skeptiko)

Now, certainly the fact that I know nothing about NDEs limits how much I can contribute to the various threads, but when people discuss things that I do know about and I can contribute to, I do not see great discussions from people who have thoroughly researched this topic.
The problem here is that it is much easier to criticize research than to support it in the face of criticism. Your assessment of Star Gate for example, requires someone to pore through literally thousands of newly unclassified documents. Your other subjects of interest are also off the beaten path around here and people aren't likely to know about them in the excruciating detail that's required to rebut you. It's possible that the only people really qualified to do that are the scientists themselves.

I personally avoid this problem entirely by dismissing all skeptical criticism that is not peer reviewed and rebutted by the scientists themselves.
 
Since I've been posting again at Skeptiko, I haven't seen any of this "real discussion" on topics that I've contributed to. Let me summarise:

I posted a thread about Stephan Schwartz's psychic archaeology. The only response was to refer me to some other, far more obscure researcher's use of psychic archaeology. No one wanted to discuss Schwartz's work.

I wrote about Project Star Gate, offering documentation to back up my claims that most of the hits claimed by various remote viewers were heavily fictionalised. The response was "That evidence is all forged!" (even though, after ten years, no one from the RV project itself has suggested the declassified papers are forged).

I debunked (quite soundly, I think) Gary Schwartz's Arizona Experiment, and nothing changed. The people who'd supported the experiments just sort of wandered off.

I discussed the experiments of Charles Richet, who Radin references as an early pioneer of parapsychology. This time I got a decent discussion, but we could never get past the fact that we disagreed on the evidential value placed on results from the initial, poor methods. (I just remembered: this was on the Scientific Debates forum, not Skeptiko)

Now, certainly the fact that I know nothing about NDEs limits how much I can contribute to the various threads, but when people discuss things that I do know about and I can contribute to, I do not see great discussions from people who have thoroughly researched this topic.
Regarding the seeming reluctance to engage that you describe, I can only speak for myself if it lends any insight. My movement away from a generally materialist worldview was based on hundreds of books and more than a thousand papers published in refereed journals. If that seems excessive, believe me, it took me the first third of that just to begin to get my arms around all the mind-bending concepts - I needed masses of (generally) mutually confirmatory data to move my worldview. My views now are based on that huge amount of information, which continues to grow.

'Skeptics' commonly try to find alleged flaws in a selected experiment or analysis but that misses the point - the masses of data taken as a whole can lead to robust conclusions without each individual bit of supporting evidence necessarily being flawless.

If someone claims to have 'debunked' an experiment by Gary Schwartz, for example, right up front, there's a problem. Using the term 'bunk' to describe scholarly work published by a distinguished scientist with world-class credentials, a full professor in multiple departments at a major university, is inherently offensive. If you want to claim to have found an error, that's perfectly fine. Claiming to have found an error means basically (1) Gary Schwartz was wrong, or (2) the 'debunker' is wrong. Because of my research mentioned above, my a priori opinion is likely to be the latter, but I do not claim certainty.

Controversial scientists like Gary Schwartz have people 'debunking' them all the time. It would be more than a full time job to carefully consider all the 'debunking' of psi (and so forth) researchers by amateurs. If the 'debunker' feels he's right, he might consider bringing it to the attention of Schwartz himself. My reading of Schwartz is he would probably issue a retraction or correction if he sees a problem, but I could be wrong. Or the debunker could get it published. And no doubt some people with contrary views will engage at least occasionally here on the forum, especially as the membership grows.

But the bottom line is, it really doesn't matter to me if Gary Schwartz, for example, is wrong about one thing, or several things, or everything, although that would certainly get my attention. It's not that I don't care, but my current worldview is based on thousands of lines of evidence. It's just not worth arguing about whether or not some particular line of evidence is untrue or partially true or exaggerated - I assume that happens, but like you I have to decide where to spend my time and I like to focus on the broader implications of masses of mutually-supporting data.
 
The problem here is that it is much easier to criticize research than to support it in the face of criticism. Your assessment of Star Gate for example, requires someone to pore through literally thousands of newly unclassified documents.
Newly? It's been nine years. But you're sort of right, except the reason for anyone to go through all these documents is not to rebut me, but to have an opinion at all. You can't judge my work, or the writings of Targ, Puthoff, McMoneagle etc either. Without that background knowledge, you can only say "I don't know" which is absolutely fine. But in the thread in question, no one was saying "I don't know," they were saying "Hey look at all this evidence!" When I replied with more evidence, that's when the tone of the debate changed.

Your other subjects of interest are also off the beaten path around here and people aren't likely to know about them in the excruciating detail that's required to rebut you. It's possible that the only people really qualified to do that are the scientists themselves.
This is possibly true. Tell you what, though, it's pretty interesting off the beaten track.

I personally avoid this problem entirely by dismissing all skeptical criticism that is not peer reviewed and rebutted by the scientists themselves.
That's a good start, but in my experience it only gets you so far.
 
Controversial scientists like Gary Schwartz have people 'debunking' them all the time.
One of the people debunking him was Keith Harary, one of the remote viewers he employed.

My reading of Schwartz is he would probably issue a retraction or correction if he sees a problem, but I could be wrong. Or the debunker could get it published.
It was published in the JASPR. Schwartz wrote a reply, which Harary did not consider adequate. You can read my blog post about it here.

It's not that I don't care, but my current worldview is based on thousands of lines of evidence.
Mine too.
 
What's an acceptable level of curiosity?
Curiosity and doubt are not really related.

There's a saying "curiosity killed the cat", I'm not interested in the metaphor here, but the practical observation that if a cat sees something unfamiliar, particularly a dark, unexplored place, it will with great eagerness go and explore. I consider that a good thing to emulate, we should all be keen to explore and find out more.

Doubt is a different matter. Since there are many subjects about which it may not be possible to know everything, then some degree of doubt may be quite reasonable. But it is often necessary to make a judgement on what is "reasonable". Many of the debates on these forums tend to revolve around what is or is not reasonable.
 
Howso?

Are you, for example, convinced that research like this (even the data alone, ignoring the researchers' conclusions) is completely incompatible with paranormal-implicating interpretations of consciousness?
This is the stuff of proponent vs. skeptic, if you're into that sort of thing, go for it.

What's an acceptable level of curiosity?
That's up to the moderator to decide. On this site they lean towards leniency, so I suspect that it would take quite a show of stubbornness to get someone canned. It's not really up to me to decide. I'm just interested in helping to set the parameters. Ultimately, it's a matter of human judgment, not rules.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
No, the positions are contradictory to one another.
You don't think it's possible that consciousness is partly brain function and partly some fundamental thing? You don't think there are things about consciousness that we can talk about even if we disagree on the final theory?

Apparently it really is all ideological. Who would have thought?

~~ Paul
 
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