Mod+ Starbaby, and other cases where skeptics employed questionable tactics [Resources]

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Sciborg_S_Patel

#21
While Feser was primarily concerned with refuting Churchland's conception of dualism, he did make some points potentially relevant to this thread.

I am not claiming that Churchland is knowingly perpetrating what looks like a pretty sleazy rhetorical tactic. I think he is, like most materialists, simply ignorant of what most dualists have actually said. He no doubt thinks he knows enough about what they say to be justified in concluding that their position is not worth looking into any further than he already has. He is wrong, but will never know that he is, because he has gotten himself onto the sort of merry-go-round that (as we have seen in recent posts) naturalists seem to have so much difficulty keeping off of: “I know that dualism is too silly to investigate any further because of how bad the arguments for it are; and I know that I must be understanding those arguments correctly because dualism is obviously just too silly to be worth investigating any further.”
The only thing more outrageous than Churchland’s persistence in superficiality and caricature would be the continued widespread use of his book as a main text for introductory courses in philosophy of mind -- at least if it were not heavily supplemented with readings that correct his errors, and actually bother to present the main arguments for dualism.
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We might also consider Rose's apparent reneging on co-publishing with Sheldrake after an experiment he'd thought to disprove morphic resonance actually confirmed it.

....the most clear-cut result concerned control chicks that were allowed to peck at either the yellow diodes or the chrome beads three hours following their injection of saline solution. Over the course of the experiment, successive batches of control chicks became increasingly reluctant to peck at the yellow diodes, indicating that they were influenced by the cumulative experience of chicks that had pecked at the yellow diodes and then been injected with lithium chloride. After stalling for months, Rose reneged on his agreement to write up the results with Sheldrake for publication.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#22
Great thread, Sciborg, with lots of useful resources concerning this topic! :)
Ian definitely deserves credit, he has a page of his site dedicated to the topic:

I also have a set of links about pseudoskepticism, at http://www.newdualism.org/pseudoskepticism.htm
Jim Smith has a similar page here.

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Prescott makes some interesting accusations in Why I Am Not A Skeptic

This new field of study, termed "digital biology," may represent a major breakthrough in our understanding of life. Yet the whole highly promising avenue of research, along with the career of the innovative scientist behind it, was nearly cut short by the presumptuous arrogance of three skeptics, none of whom was trained in chemistry.

If Benveniste's work yields life-saving medical breakthroughs, will the "fraud squad" apologize? Don't count on it. After the reproduction of Benveniste's results in 2001, James Randi quickly organized a counter-experiment, which yielded negative results. On his Web site, Randi reports only the negative findings, which he calls "definitive," and he makes no mention at all of the positive results from Europe (Randi, 2003). As noted in an online article by Rochus Boerner, a search of Randi's site turns up only one reference to Madeleine Ennis, and "it mentions Ennis' name in the context of discussing a disconfirming study, and calls her a 'pharmacist from Belfast.' Relying solely on Randi's site, a reader would never know that the women is a professor of Immunopharmacology at Queen's University, Belfast, and that she and others have produced a ground-breaking replication of Benveniste's work (Boerner, undated)."
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#23
Collecting a few points made in other threads:

1) Randi's "Broomhilda" info on SRI

Rogo writes, "There obviously exist several discrepancies between Dr Puthoff's views on what happened during this experiment, and what Randi claims Dr Hebard told him. So to clarify the matter, I decided to get in touch with Dr Hebard myself. I finally tracked him down at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey. He was very willing to discuss the Swann magnetometer demonstration with me, and professed to be very interested in parapsychology." Hebard's interest in the paranormal contradicts Randi's statement that Hebard, "not being a reader of far-out literature," was unaware of Targ and Puthoff's claims.

Rogo acknowledges that Hebard's account differs in some respects from Puthoff's. "Dr Hebard denied in no uncertain terms, however, Randi's claim that Swann was never asked to 'stop the field charge' being recorded from the magnetometer. He easily recalled that he had suggested that it would be a fascinating effect if Swann could produce it . . . which, of course, he actually did soon after the suggestion was made. Randi also directly quotes Dr Hebard as calling some of Targ and Puthoff's claims 'lies'. Dr Hebard was very annoyed by this claim since, as he explained to me, Randi had tried to get him to make this charge and he had refused. Dr Hebard later signed a statement to this effect for me." (ellipsis in original.)
2) Randi's claims about debunking Sheldrake

I emailed James Randi to ask for details of this JREF research. He did not reply. He ignored a second request for information too.

I then asked members of the JREF Scientific Advisory Board to help me find out more about this claim. They did indeed help by advising Randi to reply. In an email sent on Februaury 6, 2000 he told me that the tests he referred to were not done at the JREF, but took place "years ago" and were "informal". They involved two dogs belonging to a friend of his that he observed over a two-week period. All records had been lost. He wrote: "I overstated my case for doubting the reality of dog ESP based on the small amount of data I obtained. It was rash and improper of me to do so."
3) Randi potentially avoiding the investigation of paranormal claims that might be true.

We can argue over the competency and/or impartiality of the JREF organization, but the issue of the Challenge's credibility is affected far more by the words and behavior of Randi himself. Repeatedly, Randi has shown himself to be not only contradictory and hypocritical but eminently illogical in his defense of the Challenge's application process. Bear in mind that Randi asserts there is no valid evidence to support any paranormal, supernatural, or occult phenomena. This obviously includes Sylvia Browne's claim that she can contact the dead, predict the future, and read minds. However, on Randi's most recent appearance on the Larry King show, King asked Randi: "Is one of the possibilities that Sylvia is telling the truth?" Randi's response to this was: "Absolutely." It would seem that Randi would have us believe that he has not yet made up his mind about Browne's alleged "abilities," and only wants to see her tested fairly. If this is Randi's attitude about Browne, then why does he not apply the same logic to others who have attempted to apply for the Challenge?
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#24
Vortex posted an interesting link discussing Sagan's apparently public shaming and bullying of Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky:

If anybody possesses all the qualifications necessary for a fully ordained Expert in America today, Carl Sagan certaintly has that dizzying eminence. Through frequent appearances on TV and in Parade (a news magazine circulated through hundreds of newspapers in their jumbo Sunday editions), Dr. Sagan has issued Expert verdicts on every possible controversial issue in science, and in politics, and even in theology, for three decades now. And, like the Experts who authenticated hundreds-to-thousands of Elmyrs, he has never once admitted he ever made a mistake.

You may wonder how a man who only has qualifications in astronomy can also function as an Expert on everything in general. Well, I think it requires Sagan to have a lot of raw courage, in the first place, and a strong, well-founded confidence that those who don't believe his dogmas have much less access to the media than he does; if they answer him back, however effective their arguments, very few of his large, gullible audience will ever hear about it.

Let us see how Expertese works, by examining Dr. Sagan's long series of polemics against Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky.
Also, mentioned on another thread:

When Science Becomes Scientism: Carl Sagan and His Demon-Haunted World


I shook my head incredulously, not believing what I just had heard.

“What do you mean, this did not happen? Cardiosurgeon Michael Sabom reported this in his book based on the research he had conducted with his patients. What is your explanation for what I just have described to you? What do you think all this is about?” I asked. This time the pause was even longer; Carl was clearly thinking very hard, struggling to find the answer.

“I’ll tell you,” he finally broke the long silence.

“There are many cardiosurgeons in the world. Nobody would have known the guy. So he made up a wild story to attract attention to himself. It’s a PR trick!”

I was shocked. Carl’s last words seriously undermined the respect I had had for him.I realized that his worldview was not scientific, but scientistic. It had the form of an unshatterable dogma that was impervious to evidence. It was also dear to me that our discussion had reached an insurmountable impasse. I saw that Carl was willing to question the integrity and sanity of his scientific colleagues before considering that his belief system might require revision or modification to fit the new data. He was so convinced that he knew what the universe was like and what could not happen in it that he did not feel the slightest inclination to examine the challenging data.
 
#26
Many examples of questionable tactics here:

Skeptical Misdirection:
There are many examples of prominent skeptics who have obscured the truth. Skeptics often say that believers in the paranormal have been fooled by charlatans but it is the skeptics who have been fooled by prominent members of their community who seem to be more interested in winning the debate than in illuminating the truth. Skeptics often accuse mediums of preying on gullible people to make money but it is often the prominent skeptics who are trying to make money writing books and filming documentaries who are spreading misinformation in the pursuit of personal gain.
https://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/skeptical_misdirection (many examples at the link)

The Politics of Suppression of Intelligent Design.
http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/05/helping_an_inte085171.html

Survival of the fakest. Many of the examples claimed to prove Darwinism (the Miller-Urey primordial soup experiment, the similarity of early embryos in different species, the evolutionary tree, homology in vertebrate limbs, peppered moths evolving a darker color as air pollution darkened tree trunks, Darwin's finches, evolution from apes to humans) are false or misleading.
http://www.discovery.org/articleFiles/PDFs/survivalOfTheFakest.pdf

Randi's Unwinnable Prize: The Million Dollar Challenge:
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2012/05/randis-unwinnable-prize-million-dollar.html
...
The million dollar challenge requires that the applicant has to beat 1 million to one odds. Setting such a high barrier for success makes sense if you are risking a one million dollar prize. However, 1 million to one odds are much higher than the scientific standard of proof so this challenge is not necessarily the best or fairest way to determine if paranormal abilities are genuine. Designing a test that is fair to both the applicant and the challenger requires sophisticated knowledge of statistics. Most psychics don't have the understanding of statistics necessary to look out for their own interests and therefore most applicants will not be able to demand a protocol that gives them a fair chance of winning. This is the most likely reason no one has won the prize.

Furthermore, most applicants who know about Randi or understand the details of the challenge would be reluctant to spend the time, effort and expense of applying because they would not trust it to be a fair test or have confidence that they would be judged fairly or rewarded fairly if they succeeded.
...
Details at the link.
 
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#27
I had always been under the assumption that one of the main goals of science was pursuit of the truth, whatever that might be. To see individuals who are supposedly scientifically minded hand-waving so many things aside without even a cursory look at them indicates that either a: the purpose of science changed somewhere along the line or b: not everyone who fancies themselves as scientific practices what they preach. Either case would suggest that science should not be held high up in some unquestionable tower. Nothing should go without being questioned, because without questions, answers are much harder to come by.

Of course, it's even harder when you have a bunch of people telling you there's no answer because the question is inherently meaningless. I'd argue that the real pseudoscience is the hyperskepticism regarding everything that isn't right in front of our faces. Then there's the rampant hypocrisy, but that could honestly be a whole thread to itself.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#28
Of course, it's even harder when you have a bunch of people telling you there's no answer because the question is inherently meaningless. I'd argue that the real pseudoscience is the hyperskepticism regarding everything that isn't right in front of our faces.
You mean like quarks?

I don't think you can find many people who are skeptical about everything that isn't obvious.

~~Paul
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#29
“Heads I Lose, Tails You Win”, Or, How Richard Wiseman Nullifies Positive Results, and What to Do about It: A Response to Wiseman’s (2010) Critique of Parapsychology

I am going to demonstrate that throughout Wiseman’s career, he has tended to adopt a “heads I win, tails you lose” approach to parapsychology’s research findings, viewing null results as evidence against the psi hypothesis, while attempting to ensure that positive results do not count as evidence for it.
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The Joke of the James Randi Challenge (In Defense of Sheldrake)

I’ve endeavored to crater the myth of James Randi on a number of occasions. Randi, an amateur magician who found fame as an opponent of paranormal claims, has long served as the cranky elf of the skeptical movement. And I believe if anyone looks closely at the details of his career they will conclude, as I have, that he is a poor spokesman for critical thinking and rationality.

You can check out my previous coverage of him by following the link above. Here, I just want to address what is likely the worst, least credible thing Randi promotes: his long-running Challenge, in which he vows to give $1 million to anyonewho can prove a paranormal claim in a “controlled test.”

The Challenge has muddled the very boundaries of science, allowing Randi-ites to say paranormal claims don’t hold up to scientific scrutiny while conceding, when pressed, that the Challenge isn’t science.
 
#30
I had always been under the assumption that one of the main goals of science was pursuit of the truth, whatever that might be. To see individuals who are supposedly scientifically minded hand-waving so many things aside without even a cursory look at them indicates that either a: the purpose of science changed somewhere along the line or b: not everyone who fancies themselves as scientific practices what they preach. Either case would suggest that science should not be held high up in some unquestionable tower. Nothing should go without being questioned, because without questions, answers are much harder to come by.
What I have found very very odd is that I have yet to see, in either The Skeptical Inquirer, or Skeptic Magazine (unless I've missed it, possible I guess..), a comprehensive (and yes, "objective") overview of all of the data from all of the major experiments from the psi field, along with rigorous examination of the significance levels as well as the experimental protocols.

I mean, if this stuff is that easy to dismiss and disprove, it should be a cinch to gather all the data into one big article and demonstrate that conclusively, right?

Instead I regularly see stuff on their cover such as "Mount Rainer-UFO Magnet?"

The easy targets, instead. I mean, to do such a big study should be the beginning and end of it, right? If you are truly interested in divining what the data says with an objective eye, that is. So why chase after other phenomena which are much more "out there" and thus easy to ridicule and then dismiss? I guess I just answered my own question...
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#31
Brian Dunning Sentenced to 15 Months in Prison for Fraud

As I mentioned in a previous post, Brian Dunning, creator of the Skeptoid podcast and the world’s worst “science” rap video, pled guilty to wire fraud that had allowed him to collect more than $5 million. Sentencing has finally occurred, and the result is 15 months in prison starting on September 2, 2014, followed by three years of supervised release.

This is great news for the skeptic community at large, since it may be a long enough sentence for Dunning to fade from memory and stop publicly representing the very people who are supposedly trying to stop people from defrauding others.

Meanwhile, this case had brought to light an actual skeptical activist who appears to be smart, hilarious, and actually effective at stopping frauds: Assistant United States Attorney David R. Callaway. In the government’s sentencing recommendation to the court last week, Callaway* argued beautifully against the idea that Dunning deserves to be insulated from the consequences of his actions, saying that “There is no “Get out of Trauma Free” card for white-collar criminals or, unfortunately, their families.” In fact, Callaway argues that Dunning should be punished harshly in part because his crime wasn’t motivated by desperate need:

The crime in this case was motivated by pure greed….This was no “smash and grab,” motivated by poverty, hunger, or substance abuse, but rather a clever, sophisticated, calculated criminal scheme carried out over several years by a man who certainly had no pressing need for the money.

Callaway then cites scientific evidence suggesting that harsh sentencing for “white-collar” criminals may present a greater deterrence than “blue-collar” crimes, which tend to be more spontaneous crimes of passion compared to the pre-meditation of something like wire fraud.

Callaway points to Dunning’s “celebrity” in the skeptical community as a further reason to punish him harshly (emphasis mine):

The enhanced deterrence value of a prison term would be all the greater in Mr. Dunning’s case, as he is at least somewhat of a “public figure” by virtue of his podcast, “Skeptoid: Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena,” which he claims has a weekly audience of 179,000 listeners. Mr. Dunning has written five books based on the podcast, and he even has a “rap” video.

On the plus side, this prison sentence could potentially do wonders for Dunning’s rap career. But let’s hope not.​
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#32
Thanks to K9 for the heads up!

The bizarre – and costly – cult of Richard Dawkins


My man in the pub was at the very low end of what believers will do and pay for: the Richard Dawkins website offers followers the chance to join the ‘Reason Circle’, which, like Dante’s Hell, is arranged in concentric circles. For $85 a month, you get discounts on his merchandise, and the chance to meet ‘Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science personalities’. Obviously that’s not enough to meet the man himself. For that you pay $210 a month — or $5,000 a year — for the chance to attend an event where he will speak.

When you compare this to the going rate for other charismatic preachers, it does seem on the high side. The Pentecostal evangelist Morris Cerullo, for example, charges only $30 a month to become a member of ‘God’s Victorious Army’, which is bringing ‘healing and deliverance to the world’. And from Cerullo you get free DVDs, not just discounts.

But the $85 a month just touches the hem of rationality. After the neophyte passes through the successively more expensive ‘Darwin Circle’ and then the ‘Evolution Circle’, he attains the innermost circle, where for $100,000 a year or more he gets to have a private breakfast or lunch with Richard Dawkins, and a reserved table at an invitation-only circle event with ‘Richard’ as well as ‘all the benefits listed above’, so he still gets a discount on his Richard Dawkins T-shirt saying ‘Religion — together we can find a cure.’

The website suggests that donations of up to $500,000 a year will be accepted for the privilege of eating with him once a year: at this level of contribution you become a member of something called ‘The Magic of Reality Circle’. I don’t think any irony is intended.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#33
Jim mentioned this in another thread:

https://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/skeptical_misdirection#skeptical_misdirection_next11

British psychologist Susan Blackmore ... wrote in 1996: “When I decided to become a parapsychologist I had no idea it would mean 20 years of failing to find the paranormal.

These claims led parapsychologist Rick Berger to critically examine the Blackmore experiments in great detail, and he found that “The claim of ‘ten years of psi research’ actually represents a series of hastily constructed, executed, and reported studies that were primarily conducted during a 2-year period.’” These consisted of a set of experiments conducted between October 1976 and December 1978 for her PhD dissertation.

So, how does Blackmore reconcile the fact of 7 successful experiments out of 21 with her often-repeated claim that her own research led her to become a skeptic? Simple: results from successful experiments were dismissed as due to flaws in the experiment, yet study quality was simply ignored when the results were nonsignificant.

(From Research of the Skeptics by Chris Carter at skepticalinvestigations.org)
 
#34
“The claim of ‘ten years of psi research’ actually represents a series of hastily constructed, executed, and reported studies that were primarily conducted during a 2-year period.’” These consisted of a set of experiments conducted between October 1976 and December 1978 for her PhD dissertation.
I'm trying to reconcile Berger's claim here with the bibliography on Blackmore's site: http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/publicat.htm#PapersRefereed

What do you make of it?
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#35
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#37
No, I was referring to the number of post 1978 papers. Seemed to be pretty steady over the 10 year period?
Ah, gotcha. Looks like Chris Carter got the date wrong. It's not supposed to be 1996, but rather 1987. [Or Blackmore said 20 years, even though Berger concluded problems existed in the first ten years of research after investigating her 10 year claim.]

From Berger's original paper.

In a number of publications, Blackmore (cf. 1980a, 1980c, 1980d, 1981a, 1981b, 1983a, 1984, 1985a, 1985b, 1986, 1987, 1988) claims to have become increasingly skeptical about the existence of psi phenomena after “ten years of negative research in parapsychology” (Blackmore, 1987). Having been steeped in occult literature and practice, she entered the field of parapsychology as a fervent believer in the possibility of psi phenomena (Blackmore, 1986). In her writings, which span nearly a decade, she presents herself as an open-minded scientist. However, following the failure of her “very first experiment,” she recorded in her diary: “I concluded that parapsychology is all a lot of rubbish and I should do something else!” (Blackmore, 1986, p. 35). Having reached this conclusion, she continued to perform psi experiments for the duration of her doctoral program and earned a Ph.D. in parapsychology (in January 1980).
Meanwhile, Blackmore is extremely vocal in decrying psi research in her writings, on television and radio, and before the skeptical advocacy group CSICOP (the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal), citing her own work as the basis for her strong convictions.20 Her recent polemical works often seriously misrepresent her original work, with the distorted information being more consistent with her current skeptical world view. The present overview of her database suggests that drawing any conclusions, positive or negative, about the reality of psi that are based on the Blackmore psi experiments must be considered unwarranted.
 
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#38
No, the quote is directly from Berger. But I think the error might be in the bold:

A comparison of the experimental chronology from her dissertation (Blackmore, 1980c, pp. 135—136) and details from her autobiography (Blackmore, 1986) indicates that the bulk of her experimental psi research efforts (her dissertation experiments) occurred during a 2-year period (October 1976—December 1978), and that well before the end of this period she was a complete skeptic regarding psi phenomena (cf. Blackmore, 1987, p. 249)
Maybe those sources didn't detail the work she did over the decade. The impression Carter presents seems to imply she didn't do much after 1978 - which doesn't seem to be true.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#39
No, the quote is directly from Berger. But I think the error might be in the bold:

Maybe those sources didn't detail the work she did over the decade. The impression Carter presents seems to imply she didn't do much after 1978 - which doesn't seem to be true.
In Berger's paper he says:

Much of Blackmore’s work is considered flawed by her own self-assessment. Serious discrepancies were found between the unpublished dissertation experiments and subsequent published journal reports. The claim of “ten years of psi research” actually represents a series of hastily constructed, executed, and reported studies that were primarily conducted during a 2-year period. Prior to the end of this period, she had moved to “closed disbelief.” Her other “research” consists primarily of informal hypothesis testing and cursory examination of areas that do not (or may not) directly assess the psi hypothesis at all (e.g., mystical experiences, ghosts, poltergeists, out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences, and apparitions). She has admitted that she “assumed that all these odd and inexplicable things . . . were related and that one explanation would do for all” (Blackmore, 1987, p. 245). Though she is loath to publicly state that psi phenomena do not exist, she has made a career of promoting the idea that parapsychology should be redefined to exclude the psi hypothesis (see, e.g., Blackmore, 1985a, 1985b, 1988).19
 
#40
In Berger's paper he says:
I know, we're talking about the same passage. It gave me the impression when I read it that she didn't do much post 1978. But that wasn't the impression I got when I looked over the list.

Now, I haven't gone over each of the papers in the list but clicked on a few - they seemed pretty well in tune with what parapsychologists study.

(Unless you thought the main deception was when did she remember changing her views on psi - seems like a pretty trivial point and one susceptible to misremembering - so I didn't think that was what you were focussing on when you referred to it as deception. I thought you - and carter and berger - were implying she didn't do much research into psi post-1978 and had really only studied it for 2 years.)

Did you get a different impression than I?
 
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