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Why be a skeptic?


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#1 Spookydog

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 12:08 PM

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.

#2 canuck

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 08:11 PM

I think part of the issue you raise is that of “terminological inexactitude”.

In your post, you refer to “skeptic”, but in the context of your question, you really should be using the term “debunker”.

A “sceptic” is someone who is curious, but has doubts about the subject in question; they will change their minds in response to available evidence. This is a good thing; and debate with true skeptics is a very useful and positive thing.

A “debunker” is someone who has already made up his/her mind, and will not change their mind regardless of what evidence or arguments are presented. This is a bad thing; and serious discussion with debunkers is pointless.

In the context of Spookology, it is probably fair to say that most “debunkers” pretend to be “skeptics”. This is where the problem arises; many “skeptics” are really “debunkers” in “skeptics” clothing.

If you fall into the trap of taking a "debunker" seriously, then you could end up wasting a lot of time and energy in trying to deal with them. It is just not worth the effort.

On the other hand, “debunkers” do have a very useful purpose; they are a great source of entertainment.

Without any great effort on your part, you can push their buttons, then stand back and watch the almost endless stream of fun and rollicking good times.

With a bit of practice, you might be able to achieve the ultimate dream: get a “debunker” to foam at the mouth and roll around on the floor.

Read some of the previous threads on this site to see the process in action. Ahhh, the good times.................!

#3 CaveRat2

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 04:48 PM

I consider myself a skeptic. In other words I will have to see it to believe it. That said once I do see it I will believe it. That is the difference between a skeptic and a cynic. The skeptic will accept the truth once it is found, the cynic will not.

I am also a debunker. That term is getting a lot of negative press lately. The debunker serves a very important role. He is the one who will go in and study the building, the construction, check for level, etc. and find that your ghost is really a twisted door frame or other such mundane occurance. The debunker will try to find the common cause for all events. What he won't do is ignore logic just to find your spirit. If you think it's a ghost you better be ready to prove it. But by the same token, he has to prove his case as well. If he says it's the door twisted, he better be ready to demonstarte that is in fact true.

The cynic on the other hand won't believe anything. His mind is unchangable. If you say it's a ghost he'll call you a liar. If I as a debunker say the floor isn't level, and put a level on it to prove it, he'll say my level is off. These people do no one any good on either side of the issue.

The believer is as bad as a cynic. They see a ghost around every corner. You can show them science, you can prove things in the lab and they'll disregard what they're shown to say that it was still a ghost. These also do none of us any good. They just make the ones of us trying to study this stuff look like a bunch of idiots.

#4 Vampchick21

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Posted 18 July 2009 - 08:31 AM

I came across a new term for the close-minded disbeliever that canuck and CaveRat refer to (debunker and cynic respectively, they are both describing the same type) and it fits so well I suggest using it here.

I came across the word on Cryptomundo, yes, the Bigfoot/Cryptozoology world and cannot off the top of my head remember the name of the gentleman who coined it, but it describes the same type of person we deal with in the Paranormal.

Scoftic. :)

Most true sceptics will acknowledge that something is outside of our understanding and will not try desperately to fit a square peg into a round hole. If they don't know or can't find out what caused X phenomena that is occuring, they will clearly state it. If confronted by an apparition in all it's glory, darn right they'll admit to just that. If they find the banging noises that rattle your house at 3 am are a combination of pipes and traffic, they'll tell you and prove that to you.

In short, they want answers and they want to understand and they are willing to go out there and do just that rather than sit around scoffing at everything or sit around and buy into the most obvious hoax or mistaken identification.

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#5 OMPRDave

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Posted 18 July 2009 - 05:00 PM

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.
"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

#6 CaveRat2

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 03:38 PM

Yes, I think "Scoftic" is amply deroggatory for those who wouldn't admit to something if it bit 'em in the arse! It does separate the true skeptic who simply wants to rule out the mundane before even considering anything else from those whose negativity does nothing to promote the field.

#7 Vampchick21

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Posted 24 July 2009 - 05:52 PM

Yeah, as soon as I saw that post on Cryptomundo and read it, I though how perfectly it would fit in Paranormal research as well as Cryptozoology. After all, we face the same two extreme types.

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#8 Haunting Research

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Posted 26 July 2009 - 09:04 AM

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.
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#9 PHANTOM MONK

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Posted 26 July 2009 - 02:57 PM

I love for others to be skeptics to what I believe.Whether it is in who will make the best president, the best college basketball team, etc. To be just passively agree with I think would be terribly dull and boring. Folks have a right, if not an obligation, to disagree with any point of view they don't agree with. It might take "guts" to be a skeptic, especially against the popular point take. I admire anyone that believes strongly about something and won't change his/her mind to be popular, for money, etc. and hold to it.

#10 Axman

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Posted 26 July 2009 - 03:13 PM

I feel that there are 3 types of disbelievers.

1. The first type are not totally committed to their cause but need to see something of significance in order to make their mind.

2. Have seen something first hand but is not sure what to make of it. Even if it's paranormal to us in the field, it might be something else.

3. Steadfast disbelief. This type already has their mind made up and nothing you can show them will sway their opinion. It's gotta be fake.

Name the types however you wish but these are the types I have observed.

Edited by Axman, 26 July 2009 - 03:14 PM.

Ah. Well... I attended Juilliard... I'm a graduate of the Harvard business school. I travel quite extensively. I lived through the Black Plague and had a pretty good time during that. I've seen the EXORCIST ABOUT A HUNDRED AND SIXTY-SEVEN TIMES, AND IT KEEPS GETTING FUNNIER EVERY SINGLE TIME I SEE IT... NOT TO MENTION THE FACT THAT YOU'RE TALKING TO A DEAD GUY... NOW WHAT DO YOU THINK? You think I'm qualified? --BeetlejuiceI'm the ghost with the most, babe.--BeetlejuiceWe've come for your daughter Chuck--Beetlejuice

#11 canuck

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Posted 26 July 2009 - 07:35 PM

In my opinion, all of this discussion regarding “skeptics”, “cynics”, “debunkers” etc is great party conversation, and has great entertainment value, but it really is pointless. We just keep going around and around in the same circle; event the best entertainment gets boring after a while.

The reality is that there is ample data and evidence supporting the existence of a range of individual “supernatural” phenomena. So whether they exist or not is not an issue; the issue is one of explanation: ie: how do we explain these phenomena?

Some researchers have progressed in the formulation of a theoretical framework that encompasses some of these phenomena: Rupert Sheldrake and “Morphic Fields” spring to mind immediately.

This is where our thinking and focus should be: the explanation of the phenomena and formulation of a theoretical framework that encompasses these phenomena; this should lead, ultimately, to their on demand reproducibility.

In other words, we should be pursuing these issues in exactly the same manner that we would pursue the investigation of any "conventional" phenomenon.

The rest is just party entertainment.

#12 PHANTOM MONK

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Posted 29 July 2009 - 01:43 PM

In my opinion, all of this discussion regarding “skeptics”, “cynics”, “debunkers” etc is great party conversation, and has great entertainment value, but it really is pointless. We just keep going around and around in the same circle; event the best entertainment gets boring after a while.

The reality is that there is ample data and evidence supporting the existence of a range of individual “supernatural” phenomena. So whether they exist or not is not an issue; the issue is one of explanation: ie: how do we explain these phenomena?

Some researchers have progressed in the formulation of a theoretical framework that encompasses some of these phenomena: Rupert Sheldrake and “Morphic Fields” spring to mind immediately.

This is where our thinking and focus should be: the explanation of the phenomena and formulation of a theoretical framework that encompasses these phenomena; this should lead, ultimately, to their on demand reproducibility.

In other words, we should be pursuing these issues in exactly the same manner that we would pursue the investigation of any "conventional" phenomenon.

The rest is just party entertainment.

But wouldn't life be dull if we agreed on everything? :Spaz:

#13 canuck

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Posted 29 July 2009 - 08:49 PM

[/quote]
[quote name='PHANTOM MONK' post='524985' date='Jul 29 2009, 02:43 PM']But wouldn't life be dull if we agreed on everything? :)[/quote]
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.

#14 JimDe

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Posted 30 July 2009 - 02:25 PM

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.


…words to live by (well said).

I might also add that an individual claiming that their cause is in the furtherance of science and then displays less than an objective opinion IMO deserves to beaten over the head with their diploma, certificate, license, emf reader (…whatever) until their ignorant behavior (intentional or otherwise) is removed from the equation and we are all left to live happy and fulfilled lives while making informed decisions based on accurate and worthwhile data.

Yes, I’m skeptical of claims regarding paranormal behavior; on the other hand I’m just as skeptical of persons claiming to be in a position to properly evaluate said behavior.
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#15 JimDe

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 08:04 AM

Jst stopping by to see how the "debate" is going and I use the word debate loosley, based on what I have seen thus far. :weeee:

Unfortunately, for some, rhetoric does not bring much to the table regarding substance.
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