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Why be a skeptic?


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#16 stevenedel

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Posted 14 September 2009 - 08:43 AM

I'll start out by saying that I, personally, am a believer in the paranormal. I've had tons of experiences that even I, an intelligent and rational person, cannot debunk with mundane, scientific explanations. However, I consider myself to be very open-minded and whole-heartedly welcome other, contrasting views and beliefs. I even think that skepticism is a vital part of the paranormal community, as it keeps things organized and logical and ultimately allows the paranormal to be taken seriously. To better understand the paranormal community, I'd like to understand what, how, and why skeptics do the things they do. If you're a skeptic, could you please answer some of the questions listed below?

1. What does it mean to be a skeptic?

2. Why are you a skeptic? What motivates you to participate in this paranormal forum?

3. What does a skeptic do? How do they do it?


That last question's a little awkward, but you get the idea. I want to understand the skeptic mindset.


Maybe one of the small handful of true skeptics on this forum should have a go at answering these three questions....?

1. Being a skeptic means to demand evidence before accepting claims about the nature of reality. It also means applying strict standards to this evidence. We all like a good ghost story (as a matter of fact I'm reading one right now, Sarah Waters' compelling novel "The little stranger"), but somebody's story is not evidence. The parameters for what constitutes good evidence are defined by the scientific method - they are well tested and have amply proved their effectiveness.

2. I am a skeptic because I think it isn't a very wise thing to do to believe all manner of things simply because other people say so. Indeed, I am strongly convinced that beliefs about the nature of reality without underpinnings in evidence can often be quite dangerous and are a major cause of a lot of trouble in the world. I am often completely baffled by the ease with which people ignore simple facts (e.g., that death penalty does not reduce crime rates, that Obama does not want to kill your grandmother, that there will not be a 'line-up of planets' in 2012...). Obviously, belief in the paranormal is a far more innocent matter, but it represents the same mechanism, given the fact that there is not the tiniest fragment of sound evidence for an afterlife, psychic abilities, alien visitors etc. etc. I like to visit this forum once in a while because I am interested in how and why people maintain such beliefs in the absence of any evidence, and also, I'm afraid, out of a kind of missionary zeal, the vain hope that maybe some or other believer reading a skeptic post may change his or her mind.

3. A skeptic looks very closely at the evidence provided, and asks lots of questions. - You see a strange blur in this photograph and say it is ectoplasm. How do you know that? Did you take a sample? Where is it? How did you test it? And if you didn't, how do you know it isn't just your own breath, or a camera malfunction, or a light artefact? What checks did you do at the moment you took this picture to rule out such and other possibilites? Do you have evidence of these checks? Or do I just have to take your word for it? Was there anyone else there to do a double check? Was there a non-believer present? Did he or she see the ectoplasm? If not, why is it that the stuff only shows up on camera? How sure are you that you remember the details of that moment correctly? And even if you can rule out mundane explanations, how do you know it is ectoplasm? Where does your knowledge of ectoplasm come from? How is it validated? Etc., etc.

But if your purpose is really to understand the 'skeptic mindset', just read skeptic posts. I'd recommend Plindboe, who has posted a great many illuminating and well-argued samples of skeptic thinking on this board. No better place to start than here: Open mindedness

Edited by stevenedel, 14 September 2009 - 08:47 AM.

Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. (Carl Sagan)

#17 OMPRDave

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Posted 14 September 2009 - 07:40 PM

All good points, Steve. I think much along the same lines when approaching anything claimed to be paranormal.
"There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance - that principle is contempt prior to investigation." Herbert Spencer

#18 Corey

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Posted 20 November 2009 - 08:08 PM

I consider myself an open minded skeptic. Present to me what you have and I'll make a determination. What I will not do is be a "romantic", meaning I will not believe everything thats presented as evidence just because I'm a fan of the paranormal, or because that's what the presenter wants.
I've seen some stuff put out there as evidence and have thought "Ok sure, right." But then I've also seen and heard some things that have really made me wonder.
Beyond how I personally feel, I also try and play hardcore skeptic as well sometimes. I've often asked with my own potential "evidence" How will someone who just doesn't believe or how will someone who really doesn't care about the subject react to this?
Of course, short of having a ghost come up and slap them in the face, some folks will never believe and that's fine too.
When it comes right down to it, we are pretty much all here for ourselves. It that wasn't the case, we'd be posting our findings on the CNN forum or the Scientific American forum.
The key is to not let that make you jaded. If you take a pic and when you look at it you say "Holy crap, there's a ghost!" But when you submit it here, the biggest percentage of posters dont see what you see, reconsider your opinion. That's what opinions are for. They keep us honest, they hopefully teach us something about our practices, and they can open ur minds to other non-paranormal possibilities.
Do any of us really want everything we put out there to be agreed upon? Do you want to be that guy with a website that finds something EVERY SINGLE time they go out looking? Doesn't that hurt that persons credibility? If ghosts were that easy to find, main stream science would have recognized their existence a long time ago.
Honesty with ones self is a big big thing. So what if you didn't get any pics the last trip you went on? Does that make you a failure? Of course not. There are, and should never be any certainty in this field. It's a crap shoot.

#19 tom_bgh

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Posted 21 November 2009 - 01:50 AM

I love this quote:

"Skeptic does not mean him who doubts, but him who investigates or researches as opposed to him who asserts and thinks that he has found." - Miguel de Unamuno, 'Essays and Soliloquies,' 1924

#20 tommyhancock

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Posted 27 November 2009 - 07:59 AM

lots of comments.thats pretty much how i do it.

SPOOKYDOG:
"I'll start out by saying that I, personally, am a believer in the paranormal. I've had tons of experiences that even I, an intelligent and rational person, cannot debunk with mundane, scientific explanations. However, I consider myself to be very open-minded and whole-heartedly welcome other, contrasting views and beliefs. I even think that skepticism is a vital part of the paranormal community, as it keeps things organized and logical and ultimately allows the paranormal to be taken seriously. To better understand the paranormal community, I'd like to understand what, how, and why skeptics do the things they do. If you're a skeptic,
could you please answer some of the questions listed below?

1. What does it mean to be a skeptic?

2. Why are you a skeptic?

3. What does a skeptic do? How do they do it?


That last question's a little awkward, but you get the idea. I want to understand the skeptic mindset."
let me start by saying im a believer and my system of believing is very much like how you described your own,as opposed to being to quack who believes everything they hear. that doesn't mean i completely do not believe anything unless i experience for myself,what it means is that i take the perspective of someone hearing a storyinstead of saying "thats so freaky!"i would respond "that WOULD BE so freaky" is it a true story?who knows?the person telling it if anyone at all,thats who.

1.in my opinion skeptic doesnt HAVE to mean someone who investigates scientifically and looks for proof one way or another.imo there can be a completely science illiterate skeptic,i think the idea that skeptic=more scientific than believer or even smarter than believer in any way needs to be immediately put to a stop.thats not to say it isn't true in some cases or maybe even most cases,certainly not all.
to me to be a skeptic is more or less to be on the fence.to have doubts as oppose to completely not believing,my point of view is that a good skeptic will say they dont know but theyre leaning towards the idea that this stuff is not real.

2.i am a complete believer as far as ghosts,i have my own stories and experiences that science would have a hard time disproving to me just as i would have a hard time proving to them.i am a skeptic when it comes to bigfoot,nessie and the like.just seems kind of crazy to me.in all fairness belief in ghosts sounds crazy too.is there bigfoot/nessie/anything else like this?possibly, but i would need to see proof of this to make up my mind.i do have personal unrefutable,not scientific proof.meaning i can not by any means deny what i saw.maybe all and all im a skeptic in retrospect who has just seen some undeniable stuff.

3.a skeptic doubts.simply put.its unfair to say a skeptic investigates this or that more fully or anything like that.tons of people who are skeptics have not ever investigated personally so that definition imo is void.they doubt and that is literally the basis of being a skeptic.a good skeptic does not doubt blindly.without these said good skeptics investigations would be pointless all fairytales would be believed or disbelieved regardless of evidence or lack there of because.if everyone believes without proof or doubts in the face of proof or the unexplained(and by doubts i mean says it CAN NOT be paranormal,not claims they dont know)then what is the point?

and im on tis forum for entertainment 1st.i dont expect anyone to be swayed one way or another,i simply love discussions and also seeing other points of views and being made to think. since i do a lot of independent thinking i have consideredmost of the view points on this site i have seen so far,but certainly not all.its worth browsing for that info

OMPRDAVE:
"Well, I don;t consider a person who debunks anything during a paranormal investigation as being closed minded. All avenues have to be explored to become 100% certain that what was witnessed has no other possible explanation. That's a far cry from being a cynic, I think."

that is an extremely far cry from being a cynic.believer or skeptic if youre not trying to debunk and prove one way or another its a waste of time.i mean sure it could be fun going in believing one way or another regardless,but youre going to leave feeling however you went in,there is or there is not ghosts,but you would have proved nothing.without debunkers investigating is pointless if you want real answers and not just wild claims that your B&B is haunted.

HAUNTING RESEARCH:
"In my opinion if you are a paranormal investigator and not a skeptic, then you are destined to failure being one of those people that simply run around for a chill down the spine and you would better serve the paranormal community to go to the local amusement part and jump on the roller coaster for the same thrill.

You have to be skeptical and extremely critical of ALL evidence presented to you and you must be especially tough on your own evidence that you want to put out to the community. If you aren't you are setting yourself up for a major let down when someone lke me shoots your evidence full of holes. Of course we all know (or should know if we investigate) that the ONLY way to reach a conclusion of paranormal (or above normal) is by eliminating the mundane. We can NEVER start with "it's a ghost" right off the bat. We have to be skeptical of everything and let the evidence speak for itself.

They cynic on the other hand is very detrimental to the field because they will NEVER allow the evidence to prove anythng to them no matter how good the evidence is and even if they witnessed it for themselves. They will come up with any answer to "prove" that it could not be a ghost even if that answer is more ridiculous than the possibility of ghosts existing."

wow.i have a post in here about skeptics coming up with crazy answers which is basically exactly what you explain a cynic to be,you should check it out.
i myself am a believer,but thats because of personal experience beyond your normal bump in the night.i can not prove it,this is why i will not try to sway anybody,but at the same time i know it happened.i will NEVER give my personal stories and consider them proof weither they were in my own home or some haunted asylum.so i think a believer can go in and do good work,provided theyre not illogical.im a believer,but that doesnt mean that anything i cant explain is proof,it simply means it has not been debunked.

CANUCK:
"Yes, of course you are absolutely right.

In re-reading my post, I realise that I didn’t make my point very well.

My point was, that to get into an argument with a skeptic/debunker with the objective of educating them, is a total waste of time and effort.

I feel no obligation to provide them with a free education, so my usual approach is to give them directions to the library.

On the other hand, if I am in the mood for entertainment, I will quite happily push their buttons and watch them go ballistic. In doing this, I am under no illusions that I am either educating them in particular, or advancing the frontiers of knowledge in general. It is purely malicious entertainment on my part.

The world of “science” is full of people who are educated well beyond their intelligence, so there is no shortage of buffoons to poke at; I have to deal with these kind of people every day, and there is no shortage of potential entertainment.

On the other hand, I frequently encounter true scientists: by this I mean those that share my interest in understanding the universe, have the intelligence to understand their education, and have something interesting to say.

I am happy to spend all kinds of time discussing the issues with such people; invariably, we learn from each other, and our mutual understanding of the universe is advanced.

So referring back to my post: the existence of a collection of “supernatural” phenomena is indisputable; what is lacking is the explanation of how and why they exist.

So, save your energy and arguments for those people who can help advance our understanding of these phenomena.

But don’t waste your energy on debunkers, cheerleaders for "science", or any others of this ilk; use these people purely for their entertainment value. It's cheaper than the movies."

i would argue that questions themselves,even not highly educated questions,which by the way i dont find the OP to be, if posed to a smart and open-minded enough person can shed light on things when thought about objectively.i wouldnt say its a complete waste of time.and yes there is proof of paranormal,but not proof of ghosts,aliens,bigfOot,nessie,shadow people,demons etc.etc.etc. from what i have seen in the posts on this forum(admittedly i dont exactly spend the most time in the world here) the believers do not simply believe in paranormal or supernatural generally.and the skeptics dont just doubt paranormal and supernatural generally.its about specific things.i am not a skeptic when it comes to paranormal happenings,i am a skeptic when it comes to big foot galavanting in the forest for centuries without so much as a pooh sample of hard evidence.see what im getting at?that said i admittedly believe in ghosts without any proof because of things that i know for a fact i have been through and seem that no science could ever take from me,that said it doesnt mean anyone has to take my word on it.maybe im making it up for the hoot of it.so it remains:UNKNOWN. i havent spoken to one person in this forum yet who will stand and argue me on the point that paranormal,ghosts, thats a whole nother ball park baby.i have no proof,i have seen no proof,and thats coming from a believer. p.s. without debunkers there is far too many stories that would have to be taken as either true or false without proof in either direction,its the only way to start an investigation on a specific matter of paranormal.

STEVENDEL:
Maybe one of the small handful of true skeptics on this forum should have a go at answering these three questions....?

1. Being a skeptic means to demand evidence before accepting claims about the nature of reality. It also means applying strict standards to this evidence. We all like a good ghost story (as a matter of fact I'm reading one right now, Sarah Waters' compelling novel "The little stranger"), but somebody's story is not evidence. The parameters for what constitutes good evidence are defined by the scientific method - they are well tested and have amply proved their effectiveness.

2. I am a skeptic because I think it isn't a very wise thing to do to believe all manner of things simply because other people say so. Indeed, I am strongly convinced that beliefs about the nature of reality without underpinnings in evidence can often be quite dangerous and are a major cause of a lot of trouble in the world. I am often completely baffled by the ease with which people ignore simple facts (e.g., that death penalty does not reduce crime rates, that Obama does not want to kill your grandmother, that there will not be a 'line-up of planets' in 2012...). Obviously, belief in the paranormal is a far more innocent matter, but it represents the same mechanism, given the fact that there is not the tiniest fragment of sound evidence for an afterlife, psychic abilities, alien visitors etc. etc. I like to visit this forum once in a while because I am interested in how and why people maintain such beliefs in the absence of any evidence, and also, I'm afraid, out of a kind of missionary zeal, the vain hope that maybe some or other believer reading a skeptic post may change his or her mind.


3. A skeptic looks very closely at the evidence provided, and asks lots of questions. - You see a strange blur in this photograph and say it is ectoplasm. How do you know that? Did you take a sample? Where is it? How did you test it? And if you didn't, how do you know it isn't just your own breath, or a camera malfunction, or a light artefact? What checks did you do at the moment you took this picture to rule out such and other possibilites? Do you have evidence of these checks? Or do I just have to take your word for it? Was there anyone else there to do a double check? Was there a non-believer present? Did he or she see the ectoplasm? If not, why is it that the stuff only shows up on camera? How sure are you that you remember the details of that moment correctly? And even if you can rule out mundane explanations, how do you know it is ectoplasm? Where does your knowledge of ectoplasm come from? How is it validated? Etc., etc.


But if your purpose is really to understand the 'skeptic mindset', just read skeptic posts. I'd recommend Plindboe, who has posted a great many illuminating and well-argued samples of skeptic thinking on this board. No better place to start than here: Open mindedness

1. :) that clap goes for 99.9% of this answer.the last bit about scientific method is not solely what constitutes as evidence to all skeptics.to you yes,but not all.but that would be a beautiful answer to what being a skeptic means just to you personally.no disrespect you seem a smart guy

2.i do not think all believers believe because they are told to.i myself am a believer who does not believe almost any story without proof,meaning anything i read on here i do not "believe" perse,but i will address it as fact just in case.take it seriously regardless. otherwise,why talk on here?

3.since the word cynic got thrown out there i'll agree with this definition of a skeptic and how they work. its not in all cases though thats for certain.

as i said to the OP science does not apply to a skeptic in general,you can know nothing of science and still doubt something and demand proof before believing it.your background and knowledge of science just strengthens your views and gives you a way of looking at evidence in a way that isn't like (wow those are orb shaped!)

also i dont think you have a chance of swaying a believer just as they have no chance of swaying you.you would be surprised though with how much i agree with the skeptic outlook in general.but imo science truly is not there yet,or rather the technology is not there yet to prove one way or another.until then we have stories,true or false,all just opinions.except of course to the experience-er in some cases.but again,that will never stand as proof as far as a grand scale goes.in that respect it will boil down to science if were ever going to set an answer in stone.me personally,im not out to prove anything to anyone.

i ask,not argue,if you saw something infront of your very eyes,and it was someone you know to be dead and for some reason theyre in your living room(note:you are wide awake) and you could not prove through science,or in fact anything,that you saw it what would you think?would you be a believer?this is the kind of thing that made me a believer,as previously stated i will not ever post this kind of stuff and label it proof IT IS NOT PROOF NO VALIDATION.thats why my post that we discussed invloved a cereal box flying randomly across the room,im not convinced that is necessarily a ghost its just something i cant explain.

basically what i ask is this:if you experienced something like that,someone you know to be dead suddenly standing in front of you and then suddenly theyre gone...what would you think.would you be a believer i.e. believe that you saw what you saw,which is the kind of thing that makes me believe this stuff exists.or would you still be skeptical to a T and claim that it either didnt happen or could not be proven to have happened and,ergo, making it totally insufficient to sway you one way or another?
again not arguing,but to me not all proof is scientic.sure,it is not documentable proof,thats what science is needed for.
im honestly really interested in your response to this.if you think its too farfetched than please just humor me,what kind of impression would this have on your belief system?




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