# Pseudoskepticism and evidence for precognition

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by Magical Realist, May 17, 2011.

1. ### originIn a democracy you deserve the leaders you elect.Valued Senior Member

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Imagine you had an 'infinitely' powerful computer and you knew the temperature, humidity, density, pressure and wind direction of every cubic centimeter of the atmosphere on earth and you fed this info into the computer - which had a 'perfect' program. That would allow you to predict the weather for the next day with near perfect results. The prediction of what the weather would be in 2 weeks would drop to about 50% accuracy. Why? Becasue the weather is an inherently chaotic system. Even though the system is chaotic in nature you can still make very accurate predictions about the general aspects, such as winter will be colder than summer.

Ironically enough, the average temperature in Febuary here was warmer than March. Chaotic indeed.

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5. ### karenmanskerHSIRIBanned

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Ergo, climate change prediction and modelling are also chaotic?

7. ### originIn a democracy you deserve the leaders you elect.Valued Senior Member

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You jumped to the conclusion that climate and weather are the same thing, they are not.

For instance as I said February was warmer here than March, but I can confidently predict that May will be much warmer than February, but I cannot accurately predict a temperature or rainfall on a day in May.

8. ### karenmanskerHSIRIBanned

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NO . . . I did not jump to that conclusion . . . . IMO, BOTH are 'chaotic' because we cannot examine (observe, measure) with sufficient data and temporal density to 'predict' accurately. The shorter our temporal data interval and the denser that data base, the more precisely we can predict short-term. Longer temporal data intervals (in most models) tend to sacrifice data density and the data become 'averaged' and skewed. Thus, we lose accurate predictability as the data interval and data density (and precision) are s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d to incorporate longer durations, and chaotic (and random) events become more prevalent in affecting measureable changes.

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Fine.

10. ### James RJust this guy, you know?Staff Member

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Skepticism isn't a position. It's an approach to evaluating claims.

Skeptics do not start from the point of view that something is not true. A skeptic is not the same as a cynic.

Skeptics merely ask for reasonable evidence before they accept that something is true. Really, there's not much more to it than that.

It is, in principle, possible that that the Earth is flat and not round. But there's a very high hurdle that any flat-earther needs to clear to establish that the Earth is flat. It's not there because skeptics started from a pre-existing position that the Earth is round. It's there because of the abundance of evidence already available that points to the Earth being round. What that means is that flat-earthers not only have to put forward their best evidence for the flat earth, but they also need to be able to account within their scheme for all the evidence that seems to show that Earth is round.

The problem with the evidence that believers put forward for alien spacecraft of precognition is that it is so weak. It also tends to contradict other things that are well-established that we know. If aliens really were visiting earth with the frequency and numbers that the UFO pushers would have us believe, you'd think some of the UFO nuts would have come up with some moderately convincing evidence of that by now. But the best they have to offer are unreliable anecdotes and fuzzy photographs. And the worst they offer is outright fakery.

The label "pseudoskeptic" is, I think, a weak attempt by various kinds of woo-pushers to portray skeptics' reasonable demands for evidence of claims as a front for a closed-minded cynicism. Since many pushers of the paranormal have no idea what evidence means or how they should think about or evaluate evidence, skeptics seem to them to be unreasonably restrictive. Believe first and collect evidence later is the methodology of the believer. The believer then goes about looking for only that evidence that tends to confirm the prior belief, while ignoring all disconfirming evidence and all inconvenient facts that bear on the belief.

A "denialist", by the way, is somebody who, when faced with incontrovertible facts, nevertheless insists that those facts do not support the only obvious conclusion. A skeptic is not the same as a denialist. Show a skeptic good evidence and he will accept your claim. Show a denialist any amount of evidence and he will continue to deny what the evidence obviously points to.

11. ### exchemistValued Senior Member

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Yes indeed. In fact, Rationalwiki has a rather good, dispassionate*, discussion of legitimate use of the term "pseudoscepticism" and also of its misuse by promoters of woo, homeopathy etc: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Pseudoskepticism , very much along similar lines to your own.

*Rationalwiki is not always dispassionate - sometimes it resorts to (rather amusing) rhetoric at the expense of various forms of pseudoscience - but this article really is dispassionate.

12. ### Magical RealistValued Senior Member

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"In 1987 Marcello Truzzi revived the term specifically for arguments which use scientific-sounding language to disparage or refute given beliefs, theories, or claims, but which in fact fail to follow the precepts of conventional scientific skepticism. He argued that scientific skepticism is agnostic to new ideas, making no claims about them but waiting for them to satisfy a burden of proof before granting them validity. Pseudoskepticism, by contrast, involves "negative hypotheses"—theoretical assertions that some belief, theory, or claim is factually wrong—without satisfying the burden of proof that such negative theoretical assertions would require.[5][6][7][8]

In 1987, while working as a professor of sociology at Eastern Michigan University, Truzzi gave the following description of pseudoskeptics in the journal Zetetic Scholar (which he founded):

"In science, the burden of proof falls upon the claimant; and the more extraordinary a claim, the heavier is the burden of proof demanded. The true skeptic takes an agnostic position, one that says the claim is not proved rather than disproved. He asserts that the claimant has not borne the burden of proof and that science must continue to build its cognitive map of reality without incorporating the extraordinary claim as a new "fact." Since the true skeptic does not assert a claim, he has no burden to prove anything. He just goes on using the established theories of "conventional science" as usual. But if a critic asserts that there is evidence for disproof, that he has a negative hypothesis—saying, for instance, that a seeming psi result was actually due to an artifact—he is making a claim and therefore also has to bear a burden of proof...

Both critics and proponents need to learn to think of adjudication in science as more like that found in the law courts, imperfect and with varying degrees of proof and evidence. Absolute truth, like absolute justice, is seldom obtainable. We can only do our best to approximate them.

— Marcello Truzzi, "On Pseudo-Skepticism", Zetetic Scholar, 12/13, pp3-4, 1987"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudoskepticism

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And so... ?

14. ### DinosaurRational SkepticValued Senior Member

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From Karen Mansker Post #43
I do not think that anyone here is claiming that no future event is predictable.

I stand by my remarks in Post #42

15. ### rakovskyRegistered Member

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A professional study that finds reports of having accurate dream premonitions would be evidence of precognition. Here is an example of evidence:

Having evidence of something is not the same as proving it. A smoking gun does not prove that the person holding the gun shot it.

A scientific study counts as evidence, but it is not necessarily proof.

Anyway, personally I believe in dream predictions because I have had dreams that closely matched events after the dreams. I am aware that skeptics will say that this is just a coincidence. Personally I do not agree with that explanation.

16. ### rakovskyRegistered Member

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It's not clear.

es·pe·cial·ly
iˈspeSHəlē/
1. 1.
used to single out one person, thing, or situation over all others.
"he despised them all, especially Sylvester"
1. synonyms:
2. mainly, mostly, chiefly, principally, largely;More
substantially, particularly, primarily, generally, usually, typically
"complaints poured in, especially from Toronto"
expressly, specially, specifically, exclusively, just, particularly, explicitly
"a committee especially for the purpose"
2. 2.
to a great extent; very much.
So precognition is generally paranormal. it's not that you can't find any single instance where "precognition" would not be paranormal. I guess if someone used futuristic technology with radio waves to signal an image into your brain of an action he was going to take, you could have precognition of it.

Or maybe even if Dejavu turned out to be a totally nonparanormal phenomenon, a kind of brain hiccup, it would still count as precognition.

BUT generally that is what it means- a paranormal activity.

17. ### YazataValued Senior Member

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I think that what you should have said was that skepticism shouldn't be a position. It's basically the condition of not being convinced.

But in real life, what passes as 'skepticism' very often IS a position. It's often some combination of the positions that things like UFOs, ESP, spiritual substances, religious deities or whatever it is that doesn't conform with the "skeptic's" chosen ontology, simply don't exist. That a-priori ontology is typically associated with some sort of physicalistic metaphysical naturalism. And it's typically accompanied by a moral judgement that believing in the views being denied is bad somehow and needs to be aggressively combated.

I'm not suggesting that those kinds of positions are always fatal. I'm just pointing out that they are positions that seem to me to beg some very important philosophical questions.

I hope you recognize the contradiction in that sentence. If your skeptic is simply unconvinced and needs more and better evidence, then how can he/she be so convinced that whatever he/she is unconvinced about is "woo"?

As for me, I think that pseudoskepticism is a good, useful and needed word for what I've long termed 'debunkery'. Debunkers aren't skeptics at all, they are deniers. (They may or may not have plausible reasons for their denial, but it's denial all the same.) And denial is a position on the reality of the thing denied.

There's a big difference between saying 'I'm not prepared to say yes' and saying 'No!'.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudoskepticism

Last edited: Apr 19, 2017
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18. ### YazataValued Senior Member

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Rationalwiki's statement of purpose places the website squarely in the pseudoskeptical camp in my opinion.

They say that their purpose is 'refuting pseudoscience and the anti-science movement' (whatever that is). They say that their purpose is to document 'cranks' and to explore authoritarianism and fundamentalism. (I'd say that they already have the latter two down.)

There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of agnosticism there. They already think they know what the truth is and who the good-guys and the bad-guys are. And I don't expect that very much could convince them that they are wrong about any of their moral judgements.

Precisely what the criticism of pseudo-skepticism is all about.

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Main_Page

Last edited: Apr 19, 2017
19. ### Michael 345Looking for Bali in NovValued Senior Member

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I have no problem being called a

pseudoskeptic

debunker

skeptic

What ever it takes to put me way way WAY away from all flavours of those in Woo Woo country

I don't think it's contagious but I think it waste my time

Seen it

Been there

Found nothing

20. ### sideshowbobSorry, wrong number.Valued Senior Member

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That's an anecdote. I'd call it data rather than evidence. For one thing, the connection between the dream and the event is far from "evident". It is possible, for example, that the memory of the dream was altered by the traumatic event.

21. ### Magical RealistValued Senior Member

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No less than the denialist, which you are a prime example of, DISbelieves first and collects evidence later does. The denialist then goes about looking for that evidence that tends to confirm the prior disbelief, while ignoring all confirming evidence and all inconvenient facts that bear on the disbelief.

Which is exactly what you do. Given the facts of a case, you proceed to discredit the eyewitnesses and call into question their accounts until all you have left is some vague event that could have been anything. It's a pathetic display of dishonesty and self-delusion posing as some sort of scientific method. It isn't, as anyone who looks over your Ravenna county ufo thread can confirm for themselves. You had to conjure up a meteor, a weather balloon, and the moon just to try to explain away that one compelling ufo encounter, and even then you had to edit the newspaper reports and interviews of anything that contradicted your conclusion. That's pure outright denialism and pseudoskepticism.

Or the denialist will simply whine that the evidence isn't good enough, that the eyewitness accounts are made up, that the newspaper reports are inaccurate, that the website or documentary describing the event is lying, or that the whole event is simply a big mistaking of something for something else, like say a meteor, the moon, and a weather balloon all within a space of an hour or so. Any one of those or perhaps all of them just to deny the given facts of the case.

Last edited: Apr 24, 2017
22. ### Michael 345Looking for Bali in NovValued Senior Member

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5,668
Is it possible to list

(preferable without comment)

whatever evidence is available?

Since the happening was in 1966 it should be possible to list evidence and rebuttal in a clean format

Such as

1/ Photo 1 evidence Ref xyz of #$_&-+()/ 1/ Explanation Photo shown to be /)(+-&_$#@

2/ etc

onwards

I look forward to such a list of one is generated