Jul 13 2017

The Fragility of Truth

homeopathy5There is a lot to be horrified about regarding the alternative medicine (CAM) industry. The industry largely trades in fraud and misinformation at the expense of the public’s health. But I often find myself most dismayed by what the industry says about the relationship between humans and reality.

I have discussed over the years the many ways, mostly revealed through psychological research, but also with many specific examples, in which people build their narratives about the world and how these narratives trump reality and often even basic logic. If you ever doubt the ability of people to erect a false narrative and worship it as truth, remember that there are people who believe, in the 21st century, that the Earth is flat.

Humans, however, also have science, philosophy, logic, and reason. We have managed, especially in the last few centuries, to collectively crawl out of a deep pit of self-deception and slowly accumulate real knowledge about the universe and how it works. As a species we have this weird dual nature, at times rigorously rational, and at others hopelessly gullible and ideological.

What is perhaps most concerning about the CAM phenomenon is what it tells us about the balance between reason and deception. Sitting on top of the last few centuries of scientific progress, it certainly seems like science and reason are winning. But perhaps this vantage point gives us a biased perspective. Over this period we have largely shifted from a pre-scientific view of the world to a scientific one. Science then showcased its power by picking a lot of the low-hanging fruit – answering the easiest questions to answer.

We made huge discoveries, like the immune system, the germ theory of infection, and genetics. We discovered the fundamental building blocks of the universe, and the various forms of energy – understanding them well enough to harness them directly. Our technology advanced accordingly, and we have transformed our civilization.

But now it seems that the questions are getting harder, more subtle, more complex, and it is taking more and more effort to make incremental advances in our knowledge. We will probably never again see a situation where someone like Einstein publishes four papers in one year, laying out the foundations of special relativity and quantum theory, while earning his PhD and eventually a Nobel Prize, and all in his spare time. Today teams of people working with equipment like the Large Hadron Collider labor for years to add one tiny piece to the puzzle of particle physics.

As scientific questions get more difficult, we are also seeing how easy it is to subtly distort the process of science in order for it to serve a desired narrative. We are reminded how fragile the truth can be.

Today it is really hard to definitively answer a scientific question. You can’t just do one clever experiment that reveals a fundamental nature of reality. In medicine, for example, it takes 10-20 years and dozens of experiments, with increasing rigor, to reliable conclude if a treatment is effective or not. Further, this process must be explicitly designed to really answer that question – does it work? A certain amount of objectivity and judgment is required, which requires skepticism and critical thinking. Along the way most individual studies will be wrong or misleading. Researchers can easily and even innocently put their thumb on the scale with p-hacking. Publication and citation bias can further distort the findings.

Even in mainstream medicine, dealing with scientifically valid and highly plausible hypotheses, it is damn hard to come up with definitive answers. We can do it, but it takes more time and effort than most people realize. And until we get to that final stage in which we are conducting the most rigorous and objective studies, all bets are off. We really don’t know if the treatment works or not. Preliminary evidence is simply massively misleading.

Enter CAM world. There have been a number of criticisms from the outside and exposes from the inside of the world of CAM showing what happens when bias, narrative, and agenda is more important than scientific rigor and truth. Edzard Ernst is perhaps the most famous CAM whistle-blower. He started his career as a homeopath and physician, enthusiastic about the untapped potential of alternative approaches to medical treatment.

This led him to scientifically research the most popular CAM treatments, to review existing evidence, and to engage with his fellow CAM enthusiasts. He wanted to prove scientifically that some CAM therapies worked, but he was honest to the science, and what he discovered is that it is a scam through and through. He found that practitioners were “like children” who jealously defended their beliefs, and would attack anyone who dared speak the truth. In his book (with Simon Singh), Trick or Treatment, he says:

“Concepts such as the qi of Chinese traditional medicine are myths which enjoy the same status as religious faiths. Believers cling to the myth despite the evidence, reinterpret the myth to suit the evidence, or lie about the evidence to support the myth.”

and

“Integrated medicine promotes CAM no matter what the evidence says.”

He is not the only one. Britt Hermes went into Naturopathy thinking it was real medicine, and discovered that she was just being victimized by a scam. Frank van der Kooy had a similar experience with CAM in Australia, documenting how the industry works to create a false narrative.

I, of course, have done my own exploration of the science and deception of CAM. Homeopathy is a great example – homeopathy is pure magic, with zero scientific plausibility, and now a mountain of clinical evidence showing that it works for absolutely nothing. And yet naturopaths and homeopaths keep the lie of homeopathy alive, distorting the evidence, lying about the evidence, making up crazy justifications, trying to change the rules of evidence, and attacking anyone who dares criticize homeopathy.

Acupuncture is perhaps an even better example of what I am talking about here, because it is less obvious. Acupuncture clearly does not work for anything, and also lacks any plausible mechanism. Proponents, however, have been masterful as creating this entirely false construct of acupuncture research which is designed to promote acupuncture and show that it works, while rarely designing the study to ask “does it work?” Those studies that are actually capable of asking the correct question clearly show that acupuncture is worthless. It is a theatrical placebo.

So proponents have mostly stopped doing the kind of studies that can show acupuncture doesn’t work. They design studies guaranteed to give a positive result, to confusingly mix variables, that are not properly blinded, that use weird outcome measures, and even then give a distorted and biased interpretation of the results.

The acupuncture research is a good representation of CAM world overall. The entire industry is a house of cards, based on bias and scientific distortion. They live in the preliminary phase of evidence, and never get to the rigorous definitive stage, or when they do they ignore or dismiss the results. They are superb at marketing, at spin, at attacking their critics, and their customers parrot their propaganda so thoroughly it’s scary. I get e-mails every week from people vomiting forth the standard pro-CAM apologetics, as if they are reading from a propaganda pamphlet.

As a useful thought experiment, I have an open challenge to anyone to tell me one CAM modality that has been rejected by any CAM profession or institution because of evidence of lack of efficacy. It doesn’t exist. This is powerful evidence that they are unable or unwilling to demonstrate that a treatment does not work, which must mean that they are also unable to demonstrate that any treatment does work.

Even more alarming is the degree to which their self-fulfilling narrative had spread into the popular culture, into regulations, and even into academia. They have erected an alternate reality in which their fraud is legitimate, and they have successfully sold that reality to the world.

There are many other examples of this phenomenon, mostly isolated to specific ideological groups. It is also easier to see when it is another group that embraces a false anti-scientific narrative. There are those who reject evolution, deny climate change, think GMOs are evil, and believe that vaccines are a holocaust. People in these groups believe they have knowledge, think they have the answer, and have a long list of ready-made rationalizations that can use to fend off logic and evidence.

CAM is perhaps more dangerous because it is bipartisan. Proponents have learned to work both sides of the aisle. There are also far too many shruggies in science and academia. Politicians generally don’t have the scientific savvy to see through the scam.

All of this is also enabled by the deficiencies in mainstream science, medicine, and academia.

Science is hard, and it’s getting harder. Perhaps we are entering a post-enlightenment period, where the psychological forces of deception and belief have the upper hand over science and reason. We are being reminded how fragile the truth can be. But I like to stay optimistic – we have already identified lots of specific steps we can take to improve the situation. We just need to have the will to take them.

214 responses so far

214 Responses to “The Fragility of Truth”

  1. MaryMon 13 Jul 2017 at 9:02 am

    Just the other day someone gave me a link to an organic industy publication. The front page starts with veterinary treatments for organic animals that includes homeopathy (this is animal cruelty as far as I’m concerned).

    But I laughed out loud on page 8. Dr. Paul Dettloff says, and I quote:

    Personal observation is the most reliable source of truth.

    Then, though, he admits they need some science because legit science doesn’t believe them. It’s sort of hilarious. But as you say, they’ll design terrible experiments and publish in fraudulent journals.

    For a while we were on offense when we were saying “show me your peer reviewed papers”. They caught on to that and actually published (nonsense). We are going to have to watch them carefully as they use nonsense to impact regulations. They plan to do so.

    https://www.farmers.coop/sites/default/files/downloads/16-55014_cropp_forum_november_2016_web.pdf

  2. FredBarbeon 13 Jul 2017 at 9:37 am

    Good read Doc! It reminds me of a conversation I had yesterday with a colleague rehab professional who has usually a very rational mind and cares about what works. Then we talked about her last visit with an osteopath (D.O.) who did some kind of placebo manipulation for her lower back pain. He apparently moved her internal organs around, especially her uterus that was apparently a major issue. She felt so relieved after her visit that there were absolutly no way to have a conversation about how this form of manipulation is not supported by science and that there is no known (to me or her at least) plausible mecanism. If she already respected and liked that form of CAM, she now sounded like of prophet, while she ironically provides herself legit rehab treatments all day long.

  3. edwardBeon 13 Jul 2017 at 12:32 pm

    One fervent belief I ran into recently from a friend who I managed to thoroughly alienate during a conversation about her homeopathic “remedies” is that surgery is properly done by doctors, but otherwise, by and large, doctors really should just get out of the way and let the real healers like her get on with curing disease. This is truly the “arrogance of ignorance” that is incredibly common in the SCAM world.

    These people genuinely believe that the only thing that goes on in medical school is that future doctors are mindlessly programmed to do nothing but peddle pills, and that this is the cause of the current opiate epidemic.

  4. hardnoseon 13 Jul 2017 at 12:44 pm

    “We have managed, especially in the last few centuries, to collectively crawl out of a deep pit of self-deception and slowly accumulate real knowledge about the universe and how it works.”

    No. Sorry. Your atheist secular humanist narrative is as wrong as any other ideological narrative.

    According to your belief system, rationality was invented by modern science. Before that, all living systems on earth, including human society, was irrational and pretty much insane.

    Obviously you have not studied anthropology, have no knowledge of pre-modern people. Although you must have studied biology, you obviously know nothing about non-human species.

    All the world, to you, is primitive irrational chaos. With you and your friends exalted on the lonely pedestal of Reason.

  5. hardnoseon 13 Jul 2017 at 12:45 pm

    “We discovered the fundamental building blocks of the universe”

    What an outrageous statement, revealing complete ignorance of modern physics.

  6. hardnoseon 13 Jul 2017 at 12:46 pm

    “We discovered … the various forms of energy”

    ALL OF THEM?? And you are sure about that, of course.

  7. hardnoseon 13 Jul 2017 at 12:50 pm

    CAM doesn’t have the answers, but neither does mainstream medicine.

    People want to think they understand much more than they possibly can understand. Mainstream science and medicine is just as guilty of this as anyone.

  8. magsolon 13 Jul 2017 at 12:51 pm

    @hardose So he also has this line:

    As a species we have this weird dual nature, at times rigorously rational, and at others hopelessly gullible and ideological.

    which seems to imply rationality and irrationality are implicit properties of humanity.

    The rest of your comments are semantic nitpicks that amount to little more than countering a logical argument by pointing out a grammatical error and therefore claiming victory.

    What, exactly, is your argument?

  9. Steven Novellaon 13 Jul 2017 at 1:21 pm

    HN doesn’t have an argument. He simply has a cynical worldview in which we know nothing, all ignorance is equivalent, any pretense to knowledge is folly, and everything sucks. He makes outrageous strawmen out of the positions of others, and just keeps repeating his same antiscientific nonsense.

  10. chikoppion 13 Jul 2017 at 1:53 pm

    [hardnose] CAM doesn’t have the answers, but neither does mainstream medicine.
    People want to think they understand much more than they possibly can understand. Mainstream science and medicine is just as guilty of this as anyone.

    FFS. Knowledge is a pile. Science based medicine adds facts to the pile. CAM does not. We know this because facts, unlike opinions, are tangibly and objectively demonstrable.

  11. mumadaddon 13 Jul 2017 at 2:16 pm

    “He simply has a cynical worldview in which we know nothing, all ignorance is equivalent, any pretense to knowledge is folly, and everything sucks.”

    He does believe in magic though, and the wisdom of the ancients. Oh, and any fringe science that he thinks props up his magical beliefs.

    Personally I think he’s watched Fight Club and What the Bleep Do We Know way too many times.

  12. pdeboeron 13 Jul 2017 at 2:16 pm

    Sampled from the last chapter of The Post-Enlightenment Period by Carl Sagan.

  13. hardnoseon 13 Jul 2017 at 4:33 pm

    “HN doesn’t have an argument. He simply has a cynical worldview in which we know nothing, all ignorance is equivalent, any pretense to knowledge is folly, and everything sucks.”

    You have not understood any of my comments. I am anything but cynical. I just don’t buy your ideological narrative. I don’t look down with contempt at all other species and all pre-modern societies. I don’t have reverence for authorities and experts.

    We are all ignorant, in various ways to various degrees, because the ultimate truths are beyond comprehension.

    You, Steve N, announced that the fundamental building blocks of the universe have been discovered. How could anyone even slightly familiar with science make a statement like that?

  14. wellerpondon 13 Jul 2017 at 5:08 pm

    “We are all ignorant, in various ways to various degrees, because the ultimate truths are beyond comprehension.”

    HN, I’ve never understood why you think everything is unknowable. Surely you must think we know SOMEthings. Like how photosynthesis works and where babies come from.

    Where are your lines from what we know, to what we don’t know but might be able to figure out, to what we can’t ever know?

  15. chikoppion 13 Jul 2017 at 5:14 pm

    [hardnose] You have not understood any of my comments. I am anything but cynical. I just don’t buy your ideological narrative.

    Uh-huh. By what objective method do you distinguish actual knowledge from false belief?

  16. bachfiendon 13 Jul 2017 at 5:24 pm

    Hardnose,

    ‘You, Steve N, announced that the fundamental building blocks of the universe have been discovered. How could anyone even slightly familiar with science make a statement like that?’

    This actually brings the number of true statements you’ve made into the mid single figures – I’m not certain whether it’s 4, 5 or 6. The last true statement you made was so long ago, I’ve lost count.

    Steve Novella’s statement about the fundamental building blocks being discovered is obviously wrong – at best hyperbole. How could it be, when ordinary matter makes up just 5% of the mass of the universe, with dark matter and dark energy making up 95%? And we don’t know what either is.

    It’s certainly true that ordinary matter and the four fundamental forces (gravitational, electromagnetic, and strong and weak nuclear forces) are perfectly adequate to explain all the experiences of nature that we have in this universe, and that there’s no good evidence that any of the supernatural phenomena actually exist. No psi, no NDEs, no afterlife, no conscious universe, no teleology in nature.

  17. tb29607on 13 Jul 2017 at 5:49 pm

    bachfiend,
    The last true statement from HN I saw was when he said, “everyone thinks their viewpoint is the correct one.” Or something similar, it was a few months ago.

  18. hardnoseon 13 Jul 2017 at 5:58 pm

    “ordinary matter makes up just 5% of the mass of the universe, with dark matter and dark energy making up 95%? And we don’t know what either is.”

    We don’t know what dark matter and dark energy are, but WE DON’T KNOW WHAT MATTER IS either!

  19. BurnOuton 13 Jul 2017 at 6:18 pm

    I thought that after careful research you have determined matter to be made of information, and that is not a vague statement at all.

  20. chikoppion 13 Jul 2017 at 6:24 pm

    [hardnose] We don’t know what dark matter and dark energy are, but WE DON’T KNOW WHAT MATTER IS either!

    “Matter” is a definition that applies to a set of observed phenomena. Matter exists. It existed as true knowledge before we discovered electrons and the Higgs Boson and it will still exist if we eventually discover something even more fundamental.

    The fact that we may yet learn more about a thing in no way invalidates what we presently know about that thing.

    By what objective method do you distinguish actual knowledge from false belief?

  21. bachfiendon 13 Jul 2017 at 6:24 pm

    Hardnose,

    ‘We don’t know what dark matter and dark energy are, but WE DON’T KNOW WHAT MATTER IS either!’

    Yes we do. Based on the evidence from CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, we’ve discovered all the elementary particles and fundamental forces of nature. There might be more to be discovered when higher energy colliders are built – but that doesn’t allow to assert, evidence free, that your versions of woo are true, including Darryl Bem’s precognitition and reincarnation.

  22. hardnoseon 13 Jul 2017 at 6:57 pm

    “Based on the evidence from CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, we’ve discovered all the elementary particles and fundamental forces of nature.”

    Nonsensical statement.

  23. TheGorillaon 13 Jul 2017 at 7:02 pm

    Sure hope we’re leaving the enlightenment behind. Progress mythos and the fetishization of truth is one of the most obnoxious human perspectives. Situations like this should make clear how culturally contingent scientific knowledge is, not promote a doubling down on Reason&Science(tm). CAM strategies are a symptom of a wider social problem of treating science as THE arbiter of truth and a quasi-religious faith in technology.

  24. chikoppion 13 Jul 2017 at 8:43 pm

    [TheGorilla] Progress mythos and the fetishization of truth is one of the most obnoxious human perspectives. Situations like this should make clear how culturally contingent scientific knowledge is, not promote a doubling down on Reason&Science(tm).

    Same question: By what objective method do you distinguish actual knowledge from false belief?

  25. chikoppion 13 Jul 2017 at 8:52 pm

    [hardnose] Nonsensical statement.

    Only when you intentionally take it out of context.

    [bachfiend] Based on the evidence from CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, we’ve discovered all the elementary particles and fundamental forces of nature. There might be more to be discovered when higher energy colliders are built – but that doesn’t allow [you] to assert, evidence free, that your versions of woo are true, including Darryl Bem’s precognitition and reincarnation.

    As bachfiend again illustrates, the fact that we may yet learn more about a thing in no way invalidates what we presently know about that thing.

    By what objective method do you distinguish actual knowledge from false belief?

  26. Ivan Groznyon 14 Jul 2017 at 12:58 am

    “Science is hard, and it’s getting harder. Perhaps we are entering a post-enlightenment period, where the psychological forces of deception and belief have the upper hand over science and reason”

    This does not seem realistic. Some of the most important scientists in the history of Western civilization were crackpots in areas outside of their field of expertize: Newton was an alchemist, Einstein believed in socialism Stephen Hawking peddles unbelievable nonsense about climate change transforming Earth into Venus, Roy Spencer, one of the most important climate scientists believes in intelligent design. Garry Kasparov, the guy probably no less intelligent than Stephen Hawking, believes that the notion of historical chronology is a conspiracy concocted by Catholic monks in the 11th century or something like that, and that from Jesus’ time to today, only about 600 years have passed. When the great minds do such things, lesser lights will do them even more.

    Nothing changes, human nature is what it is, only crackpotery, irrationality, biases of all kinds become much more visible because of the technological set up of modern society. I think this view that there was once a Golden Eden of “Enlightenment” and “Scientific rationality” which is now undermined by “postmodernism”, laxity of scientific standards” or anything similar is baseless. Do you really think that witch doctors, magicians and shamans of the past were somehow more rational than peddlers of medical pseudoscience today? In rural areas in Eastern Europe many people still visit local witch doctors before going to hospital. Watching modern “educated” anti-vaxxers, lovers of homeopathy, “spiritual healings”, “holistic medicine” and other wonders, I see so clearly my dear late grandmother who believed that it was not penicillin that cured her tuberculosis, but some awful drink containing urine, concocted by a local witch doctor. But my grandma did not have the lap-top nor the access to the internet, or even basic scientific skills learned in school today, as modern crackpots do, to connect and network with similar tuberculosis-truthers around the world. She was confined to her fellow crackpots in her own village.

    I think that we should relax with regard to this fear that some extraordinary flood of irrationalism is afoot, that Enlightenment, science (or rationality) itself are threatened: no, it’s just people being people. That’s the way it is.

  27. Echoon 14 Jul 2017 at 2:23 am

    This article starts with statements I wouldn’t call fair and reasonable. The tone gets progressively more biased as we progress through the writing. For example, many other industries trade in misinformation at the cost of public health. Pharmaceutical companies use methods that rely on these same techniques, such as the ones described by Ben Goldacre. They are not CAM researchers or practitioners, they know about science and all the things you rant and rave about. Some how they still manage to use all that intelligence and logic you love so much, to push phony clinical trials and get ineffective drugs approved.

    Then in the second paragraph, the author writes: “If you ever doubt the ability of people to erect a false narrative and worship it as truth, remember that there are people who believe, in the 21st century, that the Earth is flat.”

    Thereby making a false comparison. If someone believes in one element of CAM, it is not equivalent to the belief that the earth is flat. Welcome to the new reality, you are the minority. Many people believe new age ideas about things now. In fact I just saw Dr Jennifer Berman on Conan O’Brien promoting magical crystals, and saying things about how she believes they re-align the bodies Chakra energy centers.

    At some point you should ask yourself if you are judging belief systems. You would never dare to use such a strong tone to bad mouth the central themes of Islam. But here you are essentially comparing alternative medicine to flat earthers. If someone wants to believe in Chakras and energy then you can’t do anything about it. Your science deals with other things, they are clearly attracted to new age stuff because they feel something is missing from their lives. If modern medicine answered all the questions and put them at ease and cured all ailments people would not go looking for magic. Is it so hard to understand why people seek treatments for chronic ailments that have no cure?

    Also the opinions of the author of this article are not shared by many medical professionals, highly praised sources like the Mayo clinic and others have articles and books that are sympathetic towards CAM treatments, such as this one:

    http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/alternative-medicine/art-20045267

  28. bachfiendon 14 Jul 2017 at 6:39 am

    Ivan the terrible,

    ‘I see so clearly my dear late grandmother who believed that it was not penicillin that cured her tuberculosis, but some awful drink containing urine’. If penicillin was the only antibiotic she received for her tuberculosis, then it was either the urine containing drink that cured her, she had a natural recovery or she didn’t have tuberculosis in the first place. Mycobacterium tuberculosis is resistant to penicillin.

    ‘Einstein believed in socialism’. Your ideological blinkers are showing.

    ‘Roy Spencer, one of the most important climate scientists, believes in intelligent design’. No he isn’t. He’s just one of the most well known AGW denialist scientists. His religious beliefs probably influenced his belief in Intelligent Design and AGW denial.

    ‘Stephen Hawking peddles unbelievable nonsense about climate change transforming Earth into Venus’. For once I agree with you. The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum 55 MYA due to a natural release of greenhouse gases of similar magnitude to that that would occur if we manage to burn all known reserves of fossil fuels resulted in global warming of 7 degrees Celsius over today’s temperatures, and obviously it has cooled since then and there was no runaway global warming. The Earth’s climate in no respect resembled that of Venus.

    The carbon cycle, with tectonic plate geology and rock weathering, ensures that over the very long term the climate is relatively stable. Whatever global warming we produce will, over thousands of years, disappear as CO2 is removed from the atmosphere by rock weathering.

    Of course, this doesn’t mean that the intervening global warming won’t be deleterious to large segments of the global human population. And other species.

  29. TheGorillaon 14 Jul 2017 at 8:07 am

    chikoppi,

    “Same question: By what objective method do you distinguish actual knowledge from false belief?”

    What does ‘objective method’ mean, exactly? Expand please!

  30. mumadaddon 14 Jul 2017 at 8:15 am

    Ekko,

    “Your science deals with other things, they are clearly attracted to new age stuff because they feel something is missing from their lives. If modern medicine answered all the questions and put them at ease and cured all ailments people would not go looking for magic. Is it so hard to understand why people seek treatments for chronic ailments that have no cure?”

    I disagree that people are “attracted to new age stuff because they feel something is missing from their lives”. I would think this is certainly the case sometimes but definitely not all or even most of what accounts for interest in CAM. I can use myself as an example: I have bought homeopathic medicine in the past, and echinacea, and it was mostly down to:

    – availability
    – imprimatur of efficacy due to being sold alongside real medicine
    – lack of any knowledge of science or medicine

  31. Nidwinon 14 Jul 2017 at 8:20 am

    Echo wrote
    ” Is it so hard to understand why people seek treatments for chronic ailments that have no cure?”

    Not at all, but when it has been shown that those alternate “cures” don’t work either because they just can’t work as they’re empty boxes those “cures” shouldn’t be advertized or sold as alternate medicine.

    We’re talking about multi-billion $/€/£/… industries that are selling useless crap and lies to often “vulnarable” peeps in need or looking for something to help them out.

    We aren’t talking about some old fashion grandma’s old remedy (honey + hot milk + lemon juice) to help feel better with a cold or aching throat. CAM is a complete different story with zero evidence to back up claims they’re selling as real stuff.

  32. mumadaddon 14 Jul 2017 at 8:46 am

    “– availability
    – imprimatur of efficacy due to being sold alongside real medicine
    – lack of any knowledge of science or medicine”

    Actually that’s not quite right. I think it was more like:

    – somebody I knew said you should try this
    – I didn’t look into it all
    – Assumed legit because available in pharmacies
    – No exposure to skeptical info

  33. chikoppion 14 Jul 2017 at 9:05 am

    [TheGorilla] “Same question: By what objective method do you distinguish actual knowledge from false belief?”

    What does ‘objective method’ mean, exactly? Expand please!

    That evidence must be equally accessible. In other words, your subjective evidence, the evidence that is available only to you, is of no use to me.

  34. hardnoseon 14 Jul 2017 at 1:02 pm

    Echo:

    [Then in the second paragraph, the author writes: “If you ever doubt the ability of people to erect a false narrative and worship it as truth, remember that there are people who believe, in the 21st century, that the Earth is flat.”

    Thereby making a false comparison. ]

    Hardly anyone believes the earth is flat. When faced with good evidence, most people go with the evidence. Most people are scientific (as well as spiritual) — exactly the opposite of what Steve N and his elitist group believes.

    People are rational and scientific, but many questions have not yet been answered with science and reason, and many never will be.

    Formal scientific research is extremely difficult, expensive and time-consuming. We can’t wait hundreds of years for important questions to be answered. And formal science can only deal with certain kinds of things, things that can be addressed with controlled experiments.

    The spiritual and mystical experiences that so many people have, every day, can’t be addressed with controlled experiments. Therefore, according to Steve N, people should ignore these experiences, however intense, however significant.

    Furthermore, there are massive quantities of evidence for CAM, maybe not in the journals Steve N approves of.

    More importantly, people experience improvements from some of these things. Steve N, and everyone like him, will say it’s all placebo effect, all delusional.

    No, I don’t believe it. Placebo effects are not powerful enough to make someone feel 100% better from chiropractic, or some other CAM treatment.

    When people experience something directly, you should consider that maybe it’s true. I hate the way medical science has decided that people, in general, are delusional. Now days, if you have any symptoms that a doctor doesn’t happen to be familiar with, he will immediately decide you are delusional, maybe psychotic.

    NO WONDER so many people, even medical doctors, are interested in CAM!

    And, by the way, I suspect most CAM doctors are just as useless as most mainstream doctors. No one knows much about health, whatever their ideology.

  35. chikoppion 14 Jul 2017 at 1:30 pm

    There is no string of words that will place baseless and subjective speculation on par with methodological investigation.

    [hardnose] Formal scientific research is extremely difficult, expensive and time-consuming. We can’t wait hundreds of years for important questions to be answered. And formal science can only deal with certain kinds of things, things that can be addressed with controlled experiments.

    Far better to make up pretend answers, eh?

    [hardnose] When people experience something directly, you should consider that maybe it’s true.

    By what objective method do you distinguish actual knowledge from false belief?

  36. hardnoseon 14 Jul 2017 at 2:54 pm

    “By what objective method do you distinguish actual knowledge from false belief?”

    Sometimes we do not know. You would like it to be simple, you want a straightforward way to determine if an idea is true or not.

    Life is not as simple as you want it to be.

    Controlled scientific experiments can sometimes give us a useful answer, many other times they cannot. And it is very possible to make it seem like your experiment shows something that it does not. Because research and statistics confuse most people, even the experts, it is easy to misuse them. The pharmaceutical companies are pretty good at this.

    And, of course, as we have been told many times at this blog, you can’t trust the results of an isolated study. It has to be replicated, and a meta-analysis must be done. But meta-analyses are especially prone to bias.

    Sorry, we don’t have the magic you desire, that would give clear answers to our questions.

  37. chikoppion 14 Jul 2017 at 3:21 pm

    [hardnose] “By what objective method do you distinguish actual knowledge from false belief?”

    Sometimes we do not know.

    So therefore, apparently, we sometimes do.

    By what objective method do you distinguish actual knowledge from false belief?

    You would like it to be simple, you want a straightforward way to determine if an idea is true or not.

    I would like any answer from you other than “all opinions are equal,” because that is indisputably not the case. The ability to separate fact from fiction has life and death consequences.

    Stop obfuscating. Answer the question.

  38. mumadaddon 14 Jul 2017 at 4:09 pm

    We could take an example question like: does chiropractic cure insomnia?

    The way to determine the truth is: does hardnose think it worked for him?

    That’s the same as double blinded clinical trials. In fact, it trumps double blinded clinical trials.

    Amen.

  39. bachfiendon 14 Jul 2017 at 5:17 pm

    I suspect the reason why many people believe in the effectiveness of CAM is because many of the conditions humans suffer from either get better on their own or their symptoms or severity fluctuates over time.

    Someone taking a CAM ‘remedy’ just before the condition was going to disappear anyway (or before a decreasing fluctuation in the symptoms) is going convince the person that the CAM ‘treatment’ was effective and add yet another anecdote to the ‘evidence’.

    This is a problem for conventional medicine as well as CAM, which is the reason why double-blinded studies have to be done, to determine whether the proposed treatment is effective.

    If a person has any condition, for that person doing something is psychologically better than doing nothing. A while back Ian Wardell recommended not sleeping on one’s back as a method of managing snoring (and sleep apnoea). I have mild sleep apnoea, and I’d found after many years that i feel just as tired in the morning using or not using the CPAP machine (the mask disturbs my sleep just as much as the sleep apnoea), so I stopped using the CPAP machine, which is the experience of around 50% of people with sleep apnoea.

    How do you avoid sleeping on your back? One recommendation was to sew a tennis ball to the back of your pyjama shirt, which is not something easily done. I then realised that I sleep in a shirt which has three pockets in the back, so it was easy to place a tennis ball in the middle pocket.

    How effective was it? It certainly was very effective in preventing me sleeping on my back (although I don’t know whether I really did sleep on my back much – whenever I wake I seem to be lying on my side). I don’t know whether it’s helped my sleep apnoea though. Sometimes I have good nights and sometimes bad nights. Sometimes I don’t sleep well because I’m worrying about something. Sometimes I feel more alert in the morning when I awake, sometimes less.

    But I’m doing something. I’ll probably continue using the tennis ball – it’s something that’s very easy to do.

  40. BillyJoe7on 14 Jul 2017 at 5:28 pm

    And make sure to give your bicycle a nice big hug before you go off to sleep.

  41. hardnoseon 14 Jul 2017 at 5:45 pm

    “The ability to separate fact from fiction has life and death consequences.”

    We are constantly separating fact from fiction, all day every day. We use an informal scientific method, and for many practical things it works.

    But there are also many questions that are not so easy to answer, and many that are impossible.

  42. hardnoseon 14 Jul 2017 at 5:53 pm

    I had intravenous supplements from a holistic allergy doctor who I now think belongs in jail. But at the time I was hopeful it would work.

    It had absolutely no effect. And no placebo effect whatsoever.

    Maybe some people get placebo effects, but I don’t. And I suspect that even for people who get them, they are weak.

    The results of certain CAM things, such as chiropractic, can’t be blamed on the placebo effect. When results are dramatic, and repeated, it can’t be blamed on coincidence or placebo effect.

    The chiropractic journals are full of successful research, but you probably don’t accept it because it isn’t blinded and controlled, and a lot of it is clinical. It’s easy to do controlled research with pills, very hard with chiropractic, acupuncture, etc.

    Clinical research should count. It’s ridiculous to rule out what experienced doctors have observed. It’s also ridiculous to ignore what patients have experienced.

  43. hardnoseon 14 Jul 2017 at 5:56 pm

    I do chiropractic on myself, and it works. That is NOT scientific evidence. If I say it, of course you don’t believe it.

    So I get the benefit, and you don’t, that’s fine.

    In order to convince anyone of something, we would have to get them to try it, somehow. I am not a health practitioner but if I were, I would try to convince people.

  44. chikoppion 14 Jul 2017 at 5:58 pm

    [hardnose] We are constantly separating fact from fiction, all day every day. We use an informal scientific method, and for many practical things it works.

    Ah…so for “practical” things the scientific method can be applied to determine actual facts.

    What is the distinction between an “informal” scientific method and a “formal” scientific method? Is it perhaps the degree of objectivity, control for variables, methodological transparency, or statistical significance?

    Also, what is the difference between “practical” and “impractical” things? How do you determine whether claims about the “impractical” things are true or not?

  45. chikoppion 14 Jul 2017 at 6:15 pm

    [hardnose] I had intravenous supplements from a holistic allergy doctor who I now think belongs in jail. But at the time I was hopeful it would work.

    If only there were some way, some method you might have relied on to determine whether or not a claim about a supposedly practical health intervention was true.

    But then, you had this guy’s subjective opinion. I guess he convinced you. That makes him a good doctor, right? Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work? How can you blame him when you are advocating exactly the same behavior?

    What if you had taken the supplements and your allergies had improved? How would you know the perceived alleviation of symptoms was actually due to the supplements?

  46. Echoon 14 Jul 2017 at 6:24 pm

    @Skeptic Fanatics: When you accuse alternative medicine of widespread fraud and dishonesty you are deliberately ignoring the many complex details, in favor of a simplistic narrative. It is definitely not that simple, many people are genuinely attracted to alternatives for reasons other than ignorance. The only way you can make your arguments is if you ignore that people don’t like or trust doctors, feel misrepresented, unheard, unloved and disrespected.

    Many of these alternative beliefs have their origins out of a reaction to people exactly like you skeptics. You speak with absolute confidence about medicine and accuse everyone else of being fraudulent snake oil salesmen. This is problematic because we all know many people with chronic health conditions that are not treated by modern medicine. I for example have crippling migraines from time to time. I’ve gone through all the mainstream medical gatekeepers, done many tests, and seen many specialists.

    I still get the migraines. They don’t know what’s happening and can’t cure me. The only thing that has ever even felt like it’s made a difference is a diet recommended to me by an alternative nutritionist type, and meditation. Even if these things don’t make a noticeable difference I still feel like they help and it gives me a sense of agency and control over a crippling untreatable illness that’s left me powerless to find my way home, stranded in a busy subway station.

    Have you ever had a migraine so bad that a dim light or a faint whisper makes you puke, and all you can do is lay there defenseless waiting for it to be over? Would you really blame someone like me for seeking alternatives? What about the many people with other chronic conditions?

    There’s also an element of alternative medicine that skeptics keep deliberately ignoring. This is a cultural phenomenon on a level greater than “Game of Thrones.” You know how suddenly high fantasy became mainstream, and it’s socially acceptable to be into dragons, role playing, cosplay and stuff? Well the self-help sections of bookstores are gigantic, many times larger than science, and have been that way for many years. People are obsessed with new age philosophies and alternative treatments. This movement is becoming quite large, ignoring that, describing these people as victims of con men, is not a good approach, it’s not even an informed approach. You are attacking a deeply rooted element of our modern culture, but you are acting like you are simply trying to squash a minor pest. And that you have already won. You ridicule the people who believe in this stuff, how do you think they look at you? They also outnumber you by millions. They should be considered a serious existential threat to your intellectual movement. You should not laugh, but instead cry. They grow, their candidates get elected, you shrivel in their shade.

    If you think Novella’s average article could appear unaltered in a major scientific publication or textbook you have some seriously flawed logic. He speaks with absolute authority from high up in his ivory tower. By his holy word, Non-skeptics are all either naive victims or con-artists. There is nothing in his thoughts that is welcoming or respectful of divergent opinions. The fact that the Mayo Clinic, which skeptics praise, sells books on alternative medicine should tell you something about the range of medical opinions. Novella does not accurately represent the medical profession.

    https://store.mayoclinic.com/products/bookDetails.cfm?mpid=61

    Skeptics’ writing is completely inaccessible to the average person, this is a sign of detachment from reality. The language you use is often dependent on having quite a large scientific lexicon. The tone however is quite common, and is by far the biggest stumbling block. Labeling those that disagree with you as possessing inferior abilities… Or claiming everyone involved in alternative therapies is a fraudulent con artist is also not helping. It’s much more likely that they are bleeding heart do-gooders who genuinely believe in many of the things they are doing. I’m reminded of Derren Brown’s harsh words on psychics. These people are much more likely to have some new age beliefs, problems with understanding causality, and in many cases may possess mild mental illnesses. Either way, many of them genuinely believe they are psychic. I’ve met them, I tried explaining cold reading, I’ve looked at their personal book shelves filled with new age best sellers, and have been introduced to their kids, who are told dreams are real depictions of an alternate astral dimension. They are not con artists or in possession of inferior intelligence, they are well informed about their beliefs and ideological system.

    If you don’t feel like modern intellectuals are detached, and you instead choose to believe that your ivory tower perspective is the best, maybe do some soul searching. Look at recent history, the rise of populism. The election of Trump. The democracies that have crumbled not due to coups, but rather to a slow dismantling of their institutions, lead by a feeling of resentment towards experts and insiders. Often going so far as to lock up many of their intellectuals. I wonder why they do that?

    Many political experts are highly educated and craft arguments for other educated people. Many of these people all thought Trump was laughable and had no chance, they put his odds at winning the nomination near zero, and very few people thought he could make it all the way. They were completely blindsided because they were detached from the masses. The heart break they felt on the night of election is a symptom of being disconnected. Not realizing that fake news stories spread to millions on social media and that “alternative” news was believed by millions. Fake or real isn’t even the important variable, the alternative news is written by the masses for the masses. The sophisticated opinions in the main stream media might be more accurate, but they lack emotional appeals are mostly boring. This is the digital age, we love click bait and simple facts, Trump understood this, he gave a simple label “crooked” and wouldn’t shut up about emails. He played the game better and won. He spoke to the masses, he was in touch with the people. They believed in him, by the millions, you laughed at them and loved to tell stories about the person you know who is a flat earther.

    Millions of people today also believe in alternative treatments. For similar reasons, they feel that elitist doctors who only have a few seconds to listen to their complaints, are disconnected from them. They go to an alternative practitioner and have someone take them seriously and sit for a hour chatting with them. If you don’t see the value in a simple thing like that, and continue to ignore a growing cultural phenomena you are going to blindsided when these things gain more prominence.

    Also at some point you have to realize that your chosen methods of attack are ineffective. You don’t even have a dog in this race. There’s no elected official that is on your side, your attacks on alternative medicine wouldn’t make it into the MSM publications you love so much. I would love to say you lost the war, but you didn’t even participate in any meaningful way. You don’t encourage people to join, and movements that don’t focus on recruitment are destined to fail. This is why you find this website frequented by multiple verbose old white male doctors.

    Scientific illiteracy is on the rise, an naive outsider is president, alternative treatments are covered by insurance companies, featured on late night tv shows, are deeply infused into the cultural milieu. This all happened on your watch “skeptics.” You did nothing to stop this, I’m not trying to say you had the power to intervene, but rather the exact opposite.

    You are powerless to do anything. Your movement has no teeth. The things you are fighting grow, while you whimper helplessly in relative obscurity. You are Pseudo experts and ironically kind of “fraudulent” yourselves. Novella talks a huge game about studies that expose the ineffectiveness of alternative medicine and about p hacking like he himself is an expert. But you can’t find a single study he himself has participated in that tackles these issues he loves to talk about. Where’s the studies that tackle the pseudoscience in his medical specialization? I guess those who cannot do; teach, preach and rant to their followers in strange corners of the internet.

    Wahhh the big bad alternative medicine is so evil. Meanwhile some of the exact same arguments you write can be applied literally word for word to elements of your mainstream medical industry. Pharmaceutical companies use misinformation, fraudulent practices, combined with highly intelligent and sophisticated deception to make billions. But that fits into the “big pharma” narrative so skeptics ignore it and chose to attack weaker industries lead by people who are less sophisticated. All while prescribing those drugs…

    If you ignore the jargon present in skeptical opinions, and look at the tone and arguments you find the same type of behavior that is found in school yards, YouTube comments, racist diatribes and Reddit posts. People who belong to the self-labeled group, attack and belittle the people they are supposed to hate. Just like the rest of the world, the groups here are self labeled. This means you find idiots who call themselves skeptics, misogynists who think they are critical thinkers.

    Novella writes biased attacks versus things “skeptics” are supposed to hate. He doesn’t speak truth to power. He attacks the weak, after all this time he is still talking about homeopathy. Move on, there are much more dangerous alternative treatments out there. Homeopathy doesn’t not accidentally kill people on operating tables, or cause overdoses. Why not talk about the recent boom of the health tourism industry, where people are lured to sketchy places to have questionable procedures done to them? Sometimes by mainstream, qualified, highly educated doctors who choose to make tons of money and evade regulations and by working in these clinics.

    Oh, if you did that you would have to admit that modern medicine is deeply flawed…. That spending mere seconds listening to patients is horrific… that the opioid crisis was caused by your profession. And we can’t have that.

  47. hardnoseon 14 Jul 2017 at 6:41 pm

    [Also, what is the difference between “practical” and “impractical” things? How do you determine whether claims about the “impractical” things are true or not?]

    Oh come on, I happened to use the word “practical.” Obviously, I meant things we do every day of our lives. NOT trying to discover the fundamental building blocks of the universe, just things we do all the time.

  48. hardnoseon 14 Jul 2017 at 6:43 pm

    “But then, you had this guy’s subjective opinion. I guess he convinced you. That makes him a good doctor, right? Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work? How can you blame him when you are advocating exactly the same behavior?”

    We should try to convince people to try something we believe will help them. Not just so they will give us money. Obviously.

    “What if you had taken the supplements and your allergies had improved? How would you know the perceived alleviation of symptoms was actually due to the supplements?”

    You can’t know without a control. And most of the time we do not have a control. So we do our best. Obviously.

  49. chikoppion 14 Jul 2017 at 7:11 pm

    [Echo] I still get the migraines. They don’t know what’s happening and can’t cure me. The only thing that has ever even felt like it’s made a difference is a diet recommended to me by an alternative nutritionist type, and meditation. Even if these things don’t make a noticeable difference I still feel like they help and it gives me a sense of agency and control over a crippling untreatable illness that’s left me powerless to find my way home, stranded in a busy subway station.

    My sympathies…but consider what you, yourself, just said. You cannot identify an effective treatment and therefore are desperate for even largely ineffective measures.

    What about those people for whom effective treatments do exist, but who are lured into ineffective treatments…perhaps even becoming convinced that an inert treatment is having an effect and foregoing actual, evidence-based intervention? Are you really comfortable with inefficacatious treatments being presented to suffering individuals as legitimate cures (thereby robbing them of both time and money)?

    Care (attention and compassion) is a separate issue from medicine (treatment). Surely you can agree that while care should be offered freely and in abundance claims about medicine should be backed by actual evidence.

    As for “health tourism,” consider why it exists. Unscrupulous practitioners want to circumvent the methodological and regulatory restrictions established for evidence-based health care. The opioid crisis? It is unlikely less regulation rather than more will improve outcomes.

    The ills both within and without the health care industry will be better addressed by a greater demand for actual evidence-based interventions.

  50. chikoppion 14 Jul 2017 at 7:45 pm

    [hardnose] Oh come on, I happened to use the word “practical.” Obviously, I meant things we do every day of our lives. NOT trying to discover the fundamental building blocks of the universe, just things we do all the time.

    It’s an important distinction. What you are saying is that facts that are subject to investigation by the scientific method can be established and distinguished from false beliefs, by application of the scientific method.

    Now, consider how quickly you rush to dismiss the scientific method when the results conflict with your subjective opinion. Consider how often you dismiss facts established by the scientific method when they conflict with your notions about “the fundamental building blocks of the universe.” Consider how small and biased your sample size of subjective experience is when contrasted with multiple methodological studies. Consider how quickly you dismiss the findings of expert researchers when they conflict with your preconceptions.

    In other words, don’t you believe this remedy for false beliefs applies to everyone but you?

    We should try to convince people to try something we believe will help them. Not just so they will give us money. Obviously.

    Wouldn’t it be even more honest and ethical to not just believe it will help, but to actually establish that fact through an objective method (as you have indicated is possible)?

    You can’t know without a control. And most of the time we do not have a control. So we do our best. Obviously.

    So when the efficacy of a medical intervention is measured using proper methodology, including a control, that evidence can be used distinguish actual facts from false belief. Should an individual ignore that evidence if it conflicts with their intuition?

  51. bachfiendon 14 Jul 2017 at 9:11 pm

    Echo,

    Doctors do know what’s happening with your migraine attacks. One of your cerebral arteries is constricting, causing the aura, and then dilating, causing the headaches. They don’t know why they’re happening, which is the critical factor in being able, even if only in theory, to treat the migraine.

    You claim to have had success with meditation and modifying your diet. I think your approach is reasonable. You’re unlikely to be doing yourself any harm (meditation might have other benefits such as reducing stress, and there’s a wide range of different diets possible which are perfectly acceptable, provided they provide the necessary calories and minimum requirements of essential fats and amino acids, minerals and vitamins). At least you aren’t going in for chiropractic manipulation, which has (rarely) resulted in strokes and death.

    As I noted in my last comment, doing something is better than doing nothing – provided it isn’t doing any harm – it helps psychologically.

    How certain are you, anyway, that meditation and modifying your diet has helped your migraine? Have the frequency and severity of the migraine attacks decreased? If not, then why continue? I ceased using a CPAP machine for sleep apnoea after using it for many years after I eventually realised that it was ineffective in improving my sleep or making me feel more alert in the morning. It was more of a hassle than a benefit – I persisted with it for so long because I was doing something.

  52. hardnoseon 14 Jul 2017 at 9:44 pm

    “Now, consider how quickly you rush to dismiss the scientific method when the results conflict with your subjective opinion.”

    You must be crazy. I have NEVER dismissed the scientific method, NEVER.

  53. hardnoseon 14 Jul 2017 at 9:47 pm

    [Consider how often you dismiss facts established by the scientific method when they conflict with your notions about “the fundamental building blocks of the universe.” ]

    WHAT??? I have NEVER done that, here or anywhere.

    I disagree with ideological dogma that is without scientific evidence. I have NEVER disagreed with anything that was established by the scientific method. You are really being crazy. Or else you did not read anything I wrote at this blog.

  54. hardnoseon 14 Jul 2017 at 9:49 pm

    “So when the efficacy of a medical intervention is measured using proper methodology, including a control, that evidence can be used distinguish actual facts from false belief. Should an individual ignore that evidence if it conflicts with their intuition?”

    No, I have never said anything to suggest that.

    You obviously confused me with someone else.

  55. chikoppion 14 Jul 2017 at 10:21 pm

    [hardnose] I disagree with ideological dogma that is without scientific evidence. I have NEVER disagreed with anything that was established by the scientific method. You are really being crazy. Or else you did not read anything I wrote at this blog.

    That’s an interesting reaction. I wonder if other readers will concur?

    CAM doesn’t have the answers, but neither does mainstream medicine.

    Which is it? Can actual knowledge be established and distinguished from false belief by application of the scientific method or not? If outcomes of a treatment are demonstrated to be indistinguishable from placebo, yet your intuition tells you otherwise, doesn’t that indicate that you are wrong? Wouldn’t it be irresponsible to promote that treatment as an effective intervention?

  56. bachfiendon 14 Jul 2017 at 10:23 pm

    ‘The lady doth protest too much, methinks’.

  57. BillyJoe7on 15 Jul 2017 at 3:33 am

    Bachfiend,
    (my iPad resolutely refuses to let me decapitalise you!)

    “doing something is better than doing nothing”

    I have to disagree.

    Unless and until there is evidence of benefit, I do nothing.
    This is based on studies that show that treatments that theoretically could do something mostly turn out to actually do nothing.
    I’ve chosen not to waste my time, energy, or cash on treatments without actual evidence of benefit.

    Another reason is that there are thousands of plausibile treatments out there with little in the way of criteria to decide between them, so if you’re going to try one you should logically try them all. I don’t have enough time, energy, or cash to do that.

  58. BillyJoe7on 15 Jul 2017 at 3:43 am

    I can’t be bothered to reply to Echo’s ridiculous post except to note his massive strawman about sceptics and scepticism, his even more massive strawman about what Steven Novella is doing, his gall in instructing Steven Novella what he should be doing with his time, whilst probably doing very little himself about anything (excuse me if I’m wrong, but I bet I’m not), and the irony of doing exactly what he accuses Steven Novella is wrong about what he is doing.

  59. mumadaddon 15 Jul 2017 at 4:12 am

    Echo, sorry for misspelling your name. There is another commenter by the name Ekko, which is the source of my confusion. And, in defence of Ekko, I shoukd have noticed how out of charater it would have been for him to express the views you did. Ah well, I’ve provided and example of how we perceive what we expect to perceive.

  60. mumadaddon 15 Jul 2017 at 4:13 am

    Argh. F*CK my phone.

  61. bachfiendon 15 Jul 2017 at 4:21 am

    BillyJoe,

    You’ve taken me out of context. I wrote ‘doing something is better than doing nothing – provided it’s doing no harm. It helps psychologically’.

    If it’s doing harm – and that might include just wasting time or money – then it ought not to be done. Echo had referred to meditation (which might have other benefits) and diet modification (again probably of little harm, unless it involves expensive foods of little nutritional value).

    chikoppi,

    ‘I disagree with ideological dogma that is without scientific evidence’ (hardnose)

    Like Egnor, hardnose is confusing ‘ideology’ with ‘worldview’. I can’t think of a single ideology that is based on scientific evidence. Communists delude themselves that Marxist theory is based on science. Egnor deludes himself that Christianity is based on science (largely by rejecting large fields of science as ‘junk’ science and insisting that the only explanation for the Universe is a Creator, which, by some mental gymnastics, he manages to define as the Christian god (which is actually in part a worldview too).

    Worldviews can be based on science. They can also be independent of science too to varying extents. Hardnose has a worldview that appears almost unique, with his belief in an intelligent Universe, matter consisting of ‘information’ and the inherent tendency of biological systems to develop increasing intelligence and complexity.

    No one, save hardnose, can see any scientific evidence for any these beliefs.

  62. BillyJoe7on 15 Jul 2017 at 4:24 am

    …not to mention that his few legitimate points had already been addressed in the article which he obviously failed to read with any attention, or by previous posts with which he is obviously unfamiliar.

  63. BillyJoe7on 15 Jul 2017 at 4:36 am

    Damn!

    I left my last comment unposted when I was suddenly called away and then posted it without refreshing. That comment was meant to be appended to my previous comment on Echo’s comment.

    Bachfiend,

    I was going to add “unless I have you out of context”, but somehow it didn’t get in there (I think faster than I can type and sometimes my thoughts don’t get on the page!). Nevertheless, I think it is worth being explicit about that point.

  64. TheGorillaon 15 Jul 2017 at 6:59 am

    chikoppia,

    “That evidence must be equally accessible. In other words, your subjective evidence, the evidence that is available only to you, is of no use to me.”

    I was wondering what you meant by ‘objective method…?’ This hasn’t cleared that up at all, and you’ve added some more yet-to-be-unpacked stuff like “equally accessible.” There’s really not a way to respond if you aren’t explicit — ‘objective method’ and ‘equally accessible’ are not remotely technical terms, so it’s not productive to assume that I could know what you mean just by the terms alone.

    Your initial question makes me wonder if you understood me in the first place. That all knowledge is culturally and historically contingent does not mean it is not knowledge or preclude us from saying some things are true or false, as long as you don’t mean it in some transhistorical, Platonic sense.

  65. chikoppion 15 Jul 2017 at 9:09 am

    [TheGorilla] I was wondering what you meant by ‘objective method…?’ This hasn’t cleared that up at all, and you’ve added some more yet-to-be-unpacked stuff like “equally accessible.” There’s really not a way to respond if you aren’t explicit — ‘objective method’ and ‘equally accessible’ are not remotely technical terms, so it’s not productive to assume that I could know what you mean just by the terms alone.

    You don’t understand the difference between ‘things only one person could examine’ and ‘things any person could examine?’

    Your initial question makes me wonder if you understood me in the first place. That all knowledge is culturally and historically contingent does not mean it is not knowledge or preclude us from saying some things are true or false, as long as you don’t mean it in some transhistorical, Platonic sense.

    Here’s the comment to which I initially responded:

    “Sure hope we’re leaving the enlightenment behind. Progress mythos and the fetishization of truth is one of the most obnoxious human perspectives. Situations like this should make clear how culturally contingent scientific knowledge is, not promote a doubling down on Reason&Science(tm). CAM strategies are a symptom of a wider social problem of treating science as THE arbiter of truth and a quasi-religious faith in technology.”

    If “all knowledge is culturally contingent” then how do you demonstrate to someone that a premise is either accurate/true or inaccurate/false? You seem to be implying that the ‘Reason&Science’ is the wrong approach. What is the right approach to establish a common understanding of facts?

  66. BillyJoe7on 15 Jul 2017 at 10:08 am

    chikoppi,

    Many of us have been there before.

    When I read that part of his post, I immediately saw it as both provocative and ambiguous at the same time. I still don’t know if he does this deliberately or if he is just oblivious to the effect he has. My experience is that we never get to find out what exactly TheGorilla means, no matter how many posts go back and forth. Usually not that many before we give up in frustration. I no longer bother. He says his friends understand him so I suppose that is something – assuming they haven’t decided at long last to humour him.

    Anyway, good luck with trying to make sense of this guy.

  67. Echoon 15 Jul 2017 at 11:19 am

    Bachfiend, Billyjoe7, chikoppi and mumadadd all replied to my personal story about migraines, they presented differing opinions. Everyone however missed my entire point, only bachfiend seemed to respect my thoughts a little. Everyone else wrote about how ineffective treatments can be dangerous and it’s bad what I’m doing.

    However, I wrote in the original comment that even if my chosen alternative medical methods do not work they still help me cope with my illness. They give me a sense of agency and a feeling of control over an uncontrollable illness that can leave me helpless.

    The fact that the majority of the “skeptics” can’t even see what I’m talking about, and instead choose to write tired skeptical tropes, tells us a lot. I was clearly talking about feelings and personal mental states.

    I FEEL a loss of control, you cannot debate this, my illness can strike at any moment and leave me essentially functionally disabled, unable to navigate, difficulty seeing, hearing, left just wanting to lay down in a dark quiet place, unable to help myself.

    Now it is quite natural, normal and healthy, to want to regain that feeling of control. It is totally justifiable that a person in such a situation would want to regain some sense of agency and control. Doctors, modern medicine, MRIs, ineffective medication and treatments, do not make me feel better. I cannot be cured. All I can do is manage my symptoms and take medication at the onset of the migraine to attempt to make it less severe, medication that hasn’t worked. Doctors make me feel unloved, disrespected, crazy, ashamed and sad. This is also completely understandable, if you think it’s not, maybe go learn about how a pretty significant amount of the population has this same reaction to modern medicine.

    I would not wish a chronic untreatable illness on anyone, but if you did have one, you would be pretty dissatisfied with the state of modern medicine, and you would be attracted to alternatives. It’s just a fact that when most people are told they can’t be treated that they don’t believe the doctors and search for other opinions, wouldn’t you? When you run into an obstacle in your personal life, or even in a video game, do you just give up? Or do you look for a way around and seek to sometimes do the impossible? I see skeptics in this thread trying to convert people with severe ideological differences. Do you not see that your efforts are in vain? Why do you try to change people’s minds?

    This also explains why alternative medicine focuses so much on chronic untreatable illnesses. Notice that once again, in this entire rant, I have not made a single claim about meditation/diet curing migraines. It might not work, but it helps me have a feeling of control over my fate.

  68. chikoppion 15 Jul 2017 at 11:43 am

    [Echo] I would not wish a chronic untreatable illness on anyone, but if you did have one, you would be pretty dissatisfied with the state of modern medicine, and you would be attracted to alternatives. It’s just a fact that when most people are told they can’t be treated that they don’t believe the doctors and search for other opinions, wouldn’t you? When you run into an obstacle in your personal life, or even in a video game, do you just give up? Or do you look for a way around and seek to sometimes do the impossible? I see skeptics in this thread trying to convert people with severe ideological differences. Do you not see that your efforts are in vain? Why do you try to change people’s minds?

    Because these treatments are not being represented as benign or inert. Because there are many actors, honestly or dishonestly, promoting ineffective treatments as though they were effective and thereby displacing information about potentially effective treatments.

    I’m sorry that you have to deal with a chronic condition. Would you have preferred to be given a steady diet of disinformation about the range of options available for treatment?

  69. Joon 15 Jul 2017 at 12:11 pm

    I find the topic of alternative medicine particularly interesting, along with things like the anti-GMO, pro-organic movements, because I function in an environment that tends to glorify all sorts of trendy lifestyles, while being terribly scared of anything that has something to do with the actual science. After all, science is not glamorous, nor is it fuzzy and warm.

    For example, one of my coworkers recently decided to switch careers to something deeper and more meaningful, so she started studying naturophatic nutrition. During the course, according to the school’s website, she will learn about organic, “chemical-free foods”, “energetic side of food”, detoxifying food, as well as traditional chinese healers, who can with “pinpoint accuracy” diagnose various conditions. She has just finished the 1st year of what, I believe, is a 3 year long part-time course. I find it disconcerting, when, full of childlike enthusiasm, she tells us how much she learned about how human body works in recent weeks, and educates us on the scientifically proven benefits of consuming turmeric.

    Another coworker of mine recently told me she can’t eat the apple pie I baked, since it contains refined sugar, which she quit a year ago, because it’s processed and therefore “bad for you”. I have been told countless times I’m harming myself by heating up my food in the microwave, or that GMO is bad both for my health and for the environment (so I’m, apparently, hurting others too). I use sucralose in my coffee, and I’m doing my best to keep it a secret.

    CAM and other things that contribute to a more “natural” way of living are appealing, because they’re easy to understand and they offer answers, as well as the hope for people who can’t get it elsewhere. Doctors might seem cold, busy or unapprochable; a naturopath will hold your hand while explaining, in simple words, why something works, and will make sure you feel you’re taken care of. I also think that, in increasingly secular societies, subscribing to this lifestyle offers some sense of community and support, which many people lack, after going to the church and uniting there stopped being an option.

    In my environment, the same people who feel strongly about CAM, all things organic and so on, also tend to be firmly on the left end of the political spectrum – I’m based in the UK, so it’s a bit different than in the US. Both seem connected in the sense that they stem from caring about others and their wellbeing, but also in that they refuse to acknowledge the facts, and that there are generally no simple solutions to complex issues.

    And lastly, fun fact, we still have publicly funded homeopathy here, on the NHS. It’s only 0.004% of their budget, but I find it maddening nonetheless.

  70. hardnoseon 15 Jul 2017 at 12:21 pm

    “Which is it? Can actual knowledge be established and distinguished from false belief by application of the scientific method or not?”

    I never said it can’t. But you also can’t expect to get clear answers to any question by using controlled experiments.

    “If outcomes of a treatment are demonstrated to be indistinguishable from placebo, yet your intuition tells you otherwise, doesn’t that indicate that you are wrong?”

    There are CAM things that were never shown to be indistinguishable from placebo. And just because some biased researcher claims something was indistinguishable from placebo, you can’t assume it’s true. You can’t assume everything that claims to be scientific really is. And even if it is scientific, many things are difficult or impossible to interpret conclusively.

    There are a lot of people who love science, but have never done it, who think you just plug in questions and out come simple answers. It’s nothing like that, most of the time.

    And I NEVER said I prefer intuition over science and reason. But for many things, intuition is all we have.

  71. Echoon 15 Jul 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Skeptics like to believe that they know the “truth.” The word is present in one form or another in most of their writing. Despite the fact that they claim to love science, they seem to forget that science doesn’t provide the Truth. They write condescending, but yet naive, things that go unchallenged because they are in a cesspool of likeminded followers. Skeptics like to state biased things that are quite easily knocked down, but claim it’s truth. This is further complicated by their weak defensive strategies that essentially amount to labels and mockery.

    TheGorilla is quite right about a few things, but yet they ignore him, preferring to talking around him instead of engaging. I think the problem is that skeptics are mostly an aging white male population. These old men grew up on Star Wars, and watched the stoned Carl Sagan rant about how Heikegani evolved to have shells that looked like fallen samurai, and believed it! Some of them probably still believe that crabs exist with shells that look like faces because of humans tossing them back in the ocean, they never critically evaluated Sagan’s many false claims, they just bought them as “truth.” They also buy into the narratives pushed by other mainstream “skeptics” and do not stop to wonder if maybe a scientist is qualified to speak about complex geopolitical issues. I wonder how political scientists, diplomats, policy makers, feel about your simplistic ideas about the world?

    Skeptics like to think they are the most informed and qualified people to have intellectual discussions. Why is it then that their work doesn’t go mainstream? Why is a very non-skeptical person the president? If your ideological system is so great at everything, why doesn’t it thrive in our world? It’s because people aren’t like you? They are dogmatic, emotional and ignorant?

    Isn’t that what all the fanatical people in the world tell themselves? That they are the chosen few, their path is fraught with peril, others cheat and use wicked means to accomplish their ends. But the chosen few, they fight and die with honor. As you can see, your self-serving mythical narrative isn’t even original.

    The facts are simple, the war of ideas is fought with things like: books, lectures, speaking tours, conferences, and recruitment. If you do not compete in those arenas, if hardly no one visits yours websites, buys your books, follows you on social media, then you are losing the war. It’s not about people like Trump using unfair tactics, it’s about you bringing a knife to a gunfight.

    So we have these old white men, that grew up experiencing a rapid infusion of technological advancements into all areas of life. Their culture became obsessed with advancement and made wildly inaccurate predictions about the future. They love Star Wars so much, it’s part of their subconscious. They watched flawed documentaries that included false summaries about scientific progress written by film students. Hmm I wonder why they feel so detached and underwhelmed with the current pace of scientific discovery?!

    These problems are all so easy to see when they describe Einstein’s contributions as “low-hanging fruit.” They describe his work leading to huge advancements, but now that pace is sluggish, because it’s so “hard” to do science now, wahhhh.

    Back in reality, when properly historically contextualized, his work was an incremental advance, followed by decades of waiting for the technological applications to be possible. All the elements of his landmark works were pieced together from other peoples’ incremental advances in different areas, even the famous E=mc^2 has its origins well before Einstein’s work. Relativity was not first described by him and many other people worked on ideas quite similar to literally everything attributed to him. He would and did in fact say this while he was alive, he hated the false culture of the hero myth surrounding him.

    It only seems like Einstein did everything, and that since him nothing has happened, if you have a simplistic understanding of the history of physics. Or maybe if you watch “The Big Bang Theory” and think you are oh so clever for getting the references in a show beloved by the masses.

    Also it’s quite interesting that Einstein rejected advancements that were being made in physics while he was still alive. He thought many of the newer theories in physics were not worth his precious time. He toiled away fruitlessly on his unified field theory for the rest of his life in relative obscurity, long after most of his colleagues abandoned it as a futile pursuit. He died with it being unsolved, it is currently one of the biggest unsolved problems in physics, and all these years later we still are working on theories to merge the different areas of physics together and designing experiments to provide incremental pieces of evidence. Looking back it was clearly a fool’s errand for Einstein to even try to solve such a monumental problem with such little information. But he’s not remembered for being a fallible human, because that wasn’t in the simplistic hero-myth summaries you saw in documentaries, and read in books that made you feel smart and elitist.

    Just like Sagan and his story about samurai crabs, Novella also likes to invent simplistic stories to help him cope with a reality he himself can’t understand. Einstein’s Nobel prize was not for his “one page paper” that earned him a PhD. Embarrassing that a critical thinker would just make up facts and misrepresent the history of such a great thinker. Isn’t it kind of ironic though, that a self-described intellectual hero, can’t do some basic fact checking? How can we trust an author like this, who writes about “truth” while being this lazy?

    Einstein’s PhD thesis was actually on the fairly unknown “A New Determination of the Molecular Dimensions,” this was part of a year of monumental work in 1905. The Nobel Prize was awarded in 1922, for his contributions, in general, to theoretical physics (relativity) and for the photoelectric effect (a different, multi-page paper btw). Look it up, oh wait if you do, you’ll see your wrong, you’ll blow a logic circuit, and malfunction.

    It is a small mistake, you are right! It also fits into exactly what I’m talking about, a simplistic hero-myth that surrounds Einstein and it’s evidence of a lack of historical knowledge, by a god of skepticism no less. If you think a one page paper got someone a PhD and a Nobel prize in 1905, then clearly that explains how you think science is so “hard” now, and how easy it was for the “low-hanging fruit” to be plucked. Nobel Prizes are given out usually after experimental evidence confirms theories, sometimes it takes decades for the technology to exist, such as the case of the LHC and the Higgs boson. They’ve never been given out merely for a one page paper, and Einstein’s original papers are not one page long, so I don’t know where that nonsense came from.

    Nobel prizes are given out each year, often for work first done many years in the past, and theorized decades earlier. The recipients of such prizes would not feel the same way you do about the sluggish pace of scientific advancement. You can see massive changes in most fields in just the last ten years. Just because those advancements don’t automatically lead to faster than light travel and room-temperature super-conductance, doesn’t mean they are insignificant.

    The institutions of the early 1900’s were much less interconnected than our world today, it’s possible that Einstein’s revelations could have been made much earlier by someone else if the right five or six papers, plus tensor calculus knowledge, got into the hands of one of his predecessors. Mendel’s work is now found in most biology textbooks and described as the birth of genetics, but it had to be essentially rediscovered well after his death and it’s historically inaccurate to describe his work in that way. It only looks that way in retrospect but in reality he worked in obscurity and independently. Pop science is filled with many such misconceptions.

    It’s likely that scientific breakthroughs have always been difficult to achieve, and that the underlying theme is a slow incremental advancement. Einstein’s achievements also happened at a time of radical changes in the world. For example, there was already a sophisticated and expanding industrial system in place, to mine the earth, refine metals and manufacture the equipment needed for scientific pursuits. The world was becoming more interconnected, war was much more severely felt than it is now, the population was booming. Cities were becoming electrified, modernized, new professions were being invented, new media. Many of these things were already occurring at the time before Einstein and his achievements would have been impossible without them.

    To anyone who thinks the advancements were easy, go and create a functional lightbulb yourself, from scratch without instruction. Smelt the components, blow the glass, etc. Yes of course that isn’t as “hard” as solving modern physics problems, but its quite difficult, and would have been seen as a breakthrough at the time. It’s only simplistic narratives, and a sense of entitlement that makes you think of breakthroughs as “low-hanging fruit.” You forget we were once just mere prehistoric people without language, it’s a miracle to have what we have now from our humble origins. Can giraffes make a lightbulb? If one did I wouldn’t call it “low-hanging fruit.” I would contextualize it and metaphorically describe it as them plucking a fruit dangling so high from the tree of knowledge, that not even they could have reached it with their towering height and long necks.

  72. chikoppion 15 Jul 2017 at 1:29 pm

    [hardnose] There are CAM things that were never shown to be indistinguishable from placebo. And just because some biased researcher claims something was indistinguishable from placebo, you can’t assume it’s true. You can’t assume everything that claims to be scientific really is. And even if it is scientific, many things are difficult or impossible to interpret conclusively.

    “Some biased researcher” is not the scientific method. That’s a strawman. Methodology and statistical relevance have been discussed previously at great length. If your claim is that any facts that refute your subjective beliefs is “fake science” then we’re back to square one and there is no objective method to distinguish actual facts from false beliefs.

    Neither is ‘absolute knowledge’ a reasonable standard. Nothing is absolute. What we have is objective measurements that demonstrate the reliable correlation of events. If (A) is objectively demonstrated to not correlate to (B) then either that methodologically established fact supersedes subjective assessment or it doesn’t.

  73. chikoppion 15 Jul 2017 at 2:01 pm

    [Echo] Skeptics like to believe that they know the “truth.” The word is present in one form or another in most of their writing. Despite the fact that they claim to love science, they seem to forget that science doesn’t provide the Truth. They write condescending, but yet naive, things that go unchallenged because they are in a cesspool of likeminded followers. Skeptics like to state biased things that are quite easily knocked down, but claim it’s truth. This is further complicated by their weak defensive strategies that essentially amount to labels and mockery.

    Etc., etc.

    I’m doing my best to read this charitably, but I’m having a difficult time getting past the characterization and disparagement of ‘old white men.’

    You seem to imply that you believe the scientific method is reliable for establishing actual facts. How are these facts distinct from the “Truth?” Is evidence-based reason unworthy of regard or defense if it does not illuminate the “Truth?”

    The facts are simple, the war of ideas is fought with things like: books, lectures, speaking tours, conferences, and recruitment. If you do not compete in those arenas, if hardly no one visits yours websites, buys your books, follows you on social media, then you are losing the war. It’s not about people like Trump using unfair tactics, it’s about you bringing a knife to a gunfight.

    So what practices do you believe would be equivalent to an appropriate caliber gun? Or do you even think the fight is worthy of being waged? If that is the case, what is it we sadly misdirected wretches should concern ourselves with instead?

  74. goldmund52on 15 Jul 2017 at 3:23 pm

    Steven Novella: To my view, there are narrative strands that persist in various cultural forms because they come naturally to people, probably because they have evolutionary adaptive value. Conspiracy thinking may be an example. Some of these narratives also persist in contemporary secular world views. For example, there is a contamination narrative that affects attitudes toward nuclear energy, GMO’s. There is an apocalypse narrative that seeps into the green/environmentalist world view.

    There is also an original sin/ fallen state narrative that I think shows up frequently on this blog. In this version, people in their natural state have underdeveloped critical thinking skills that keep them mired in “a deep pit of self-deception”. “Truth” is so fragile that we are at risk for slipping into a post-enlightenment condition.

    You state, “I have discussed over the years the many ways, mostly revealed through psychological research, but also with many specific examples, in which people build their narratives about the world and how these narratives trump reality and often even basic logic.” I think you should reconsider this narrative strand, which is indeed ensconced in the psychology literature. I refer you to Individuality and Entanglement: The Moral and Material Bases of Social Life by Herbert Gintis. The gist of the book being that you cannot coherently describe human social behavior without the foundation of evolutionary psychology, game theory, and rational choice modeling. Quoting Gintis: “Roughly speaking, the received wisdom in psychology, found in virtually every first-year graduate textbook, is that humans are poor decision makers whose social interactions are plagued by biases and misperceptions. People are not logical, the saying goes, they are psychological.” In contrast, Gintis argues that “There is absolutely no way to do serious social theory without recognizing that human behavior is purposive and can generally be modeled as rational choice.”

    I say, be leery of psychologically styled analysis that boils down to concluding that basic human nature is an impairment. It doesn’t really make sense from the complexity framework view of human society (of which the silo psychology literature is mostly unaware). Plus, it’s depressing and pessimistic to have to look at people this way.

  75. goldmund52on 15 Jul 2017 at 3:26 pm

    Echo: I happen to be a “verbose old white male doctor” (Please see post above for an example of my verbosity). I also happen to practice pain medicine. Naturally, I’ve thought a lot about this recurring theme of mainstream doctors failing to show people that they care. “Doctors make me feel unloved, disrespected, crazy, ashamed and sad.” I think it’s fair to say that MDs historically have been trained to focus more on identifying and treating pathophysiology than on the more intangible interpersonal aspects of caretaking. I know I was. (Plus I’m really behind the curve because I’m white, male, shy, and nerdy, wearing coke bottle glasses since 4th grade, but I digress.) But this can be approached as a quality improvement, educational issue. I think that training programs are improving in this regard. It’s certainly an acquired skill to help people live with chronic pain, for example. It is also the case that MDs frequently don’t know how to proceed when they know that they cannot really cure the patient, a juncture at which the patient can be angry simply out of fear and frustration. It is also the case that people who don’t live with chronic pain don’t have any idea how hard it is, including some MDs. Plus, I agree that a condescending attitude that people use CAM because they are unsophisticated isn’t a large enough view of the human condition. See above.

    But here’s the thing. I’ll bet you that I understand your chronic migraine condition as well as anyone (without knowing you personally of course), MD or otherwise. But I agree 100% with Steven Novella’s fight against CAM. 100%. I’ll take the liberty of giving a couple of examples. A man treated for 8 weeks by a chiropracter with a huge C5,6 ruptured disc now left with life-destroying permanent motor deficits and pain, who had a good chance of being cured by surgery early on, had this Doctor of Chiropractic known just the slightest amount of spine medicine. A lady in our pain clinic who went to an alternative Las Vegas pain treatment center because they showed intense caring, certainly more that the 3rd year anesthesia residents who hate the obligatory chronic pain clinic rotation, who comes back to us in 6 months with the same pain, more discouraged than ever, and a large 2nd mortgage. Or my patient who died of bladder cancer while on juice therapy in Iowa. We’re all in the same boat as humans. There are different ways to help people and to harm them. On balance, CAM does far more harm than good, and you cannot justify it by pointing to examples where it’s pretty benign. That’s the narrative I choose on this issue.

  76. hardnoseon 15 Jul 2017 at 3:43 pm

    “I say, be leery of psychologically styled analysis that boils down to concluding that basic human nature is an impairment. It doesn’t really make sense from the complexity framework view of human society (of which the silo psychology literature is mostly unaware). Plus, it’s depressing and pessimistic to have to look at people this way.”

    I wouldn’t mind it being depressing and pessimistic, if it made sense. But as you suggest, it does not make sense. I never thought Kahneman and Tversky’s research made sense. I always thought it was contrived to support a certain progressive worldview, to explain things K & T thought were irrational, such as religion and war.

  77. Echoon 15 Jul 2017 at 4:19 pm

    @chikoppi: I can defend all the points I made. Read it in full, then form a complete response…. please? Because It appears as though you can’t get past the first few lines.

    About the old men: It’s not disparagement when it’s a factual description thats highly relevant to the discussion. By my last count from looking at the commenters below these blog entries, assuming we can take them at face value, I see multiple surgeons, ER doctors, clinicians, PhDs, it’s just a short statistical jump from there to concluding most of them are very likely white men. The jade egg comments are a dead giveaway if you need more evidence. Look at some audience photos from the conferences they attend, I see a lot of white old men.

    Age also matters, because young people today interested in science don’t see a tree where all the low hanging fruit has been picked. They don’t see a barren wasteland, they see a wide open horizon filled with possibilities. Old people quite often feel like everything has been done already, and express dissatisfaction with the way things have progressed, just listen to the SGU, they frequently talk about how when they were growing up nano tech was gonna be huge man, and they are all still looking for those big breakthroughs. If this wasn’t the case they wouldn’t cover every tiny battery technology breakthrough and claim it’s gonna change everything. If you think all these things you are very likely older, white and likely male. If you think the original Star Wars movies aren’t trash and you hate the new ones, you are too old and detached from reality. Goonies is crap and always was, sorry, go watch it with your kids right now if you don’t believe me. If you are an old white male doctor, you also likely grew up and benefited from a lot of privilege and had parents with money.

    Pretending like socioeconomic status, age, gender, skin tone, doesn’t matter is exactly the problem. Growing up with wealthy white male privilege and false summaries of scientific breakthroughs, directly lead to believing that you could get a PhD and a Nobel Prize in the early 1900s for a “one-page paper” (Novella’s actual words). “We will probably never again see a situation where someone like Einstein publishes a one-page paper that earns him a PhD and a Nobel prize, changing our fundamental view of the nature of physics.”

    Sorry that’s hilariously incorrect, and I can tell you exactly where false ideas like that come from. Only someone who doesn’t understand the historical context would say something like that. Someone who doesn’t understand Einstein’s actual role in history, and prefers to believe it was just easier back then. The narrative is what matters here not the facts, we can all easily see the factual mistakes Novella made instantly by googling it.

    The narrative is that Novella believes it was really so easy for Einstein, that a lowly patent clerk could just publish a one page paper and be handed a PhD and Nobel Prize, but now its so hard for us to do science. Einstein took all the easy stuff. This self-serving narrative helps Novella cope with the fact that he hasn’t discovered anything. He writes all the time about studies exposing pseudoscience, but he hasn’t conducted a study like that in his entire life. He criticizes statistical method’s used by researchers but he himself is not a researcher and likely cannot perform their analyses, he’s a clinician, not a statistician. If I had to guess, I would say he’s likely unfamiliar with modern experimental design and statistical methods. His words on the topic are essentially summaries of things written by professional statisticians and researchers. Ask yourself how someone so interested in exposing pseudoscience, doesn’t feel the need to do what others have done and run experiments, publish things that expose these people? Randi is a magician, and he’s done it, it’s not that hard.

    On Truth: The entire blog post up there presents a very specific narrative about the nature of science, it’s pace and difficulty. That entire narrative is false. It however is presented as truth. The article has “truth” in the title, “truth” appears multiple time in the writing.

    You can argue with me over the nature of science and it’s pace. But you cannot debate my claims that Novella presented Einstein incorrectly and used him as an example to argue that science is so hard now, and was so easy back then. That fictional factoid is used to create a false narrative that Novella clearly believes, this isn’t the first time he has described Einstein as picking “hanging fruit.” None of Einstein’s original published scientific papers are one-page long, it wasn’t that easy to get a PhD or a Nobel Prize back then.

    But skeptics continue to speak with absolute authority. Tell us how stupid we are, tell us how Einstein got a PhD for a one-page paper. All while lecturing me on the nature of truth. Lie to me, while educating me.

    On knife-fighting: Every single skeptic fails to understand how the world really works. This might be because you grew up watching Walter Cronkite and his followers, where the “truth” was “true.” Everything was easy, black and white. News papers and tv anchors told you the “truth.” Wrong….

    That was never the case, but you would watch it and listen to them, trust them so much. You were not presented with sophisticated informed opinions, but instead with someone telling you exactly what to believe and what was right. You never realized that they were telling a biased story from a limited perspective, it was always presented as the “truth.” You thought you were an informed voter because you knew a tiny little amount about one political issue. You still to this day scoff when people try to tell you that the mainstream media is biased.

    Trump won because you believe in “truth.” You thought that it didn’t matter how huge he was on social media, how much he was covered on tv, you laughed during the debates at all the stupid things he said and described it as word salad. None of this mattered because he was a liar, and lies are the opposite of the “truth.” Truth is how you win, truth is reality, when you lie you expose yourself as being bad. Skeptics believed all this, and mostly likely still do.

    Trump won because of exposure and emotional appeal. Truth had nothing to do with it. I know it might be hard for you to believe, but many people really loved his performance in the debates. They saw him trying to stick it to snobby intellectuals. He spoke in broken sentences, just like them. She spoke flawlessly, like… well no one.

    The weapons you need to wield to win this war of ideas are things you are incapable of, due to your cold rationality and lack of emotional intelligence. You have no empathy, respect, or patience for people who disagree with you. You are likely somewhere on the spectrum. You are highly functional of course, and intelligent, no one is debating that. You just are disconnected from the world. You are too good to get dirty fighting in the muck with us. You don’t understand us, and we don’t understand you.

    The campaign to take Bill O’reilly off the air should have happened years ago, not AFTER the election… Fake news proponents should be shut down, you should have mobilized and worked very hard to squash fake news websites. The KKK wasn’t taken down by free speech or decency laws, but for other things and bankrupted. You should organize and stick to fake news websites like glue, probing for weaknesses anything you can do to take them down legally and reasonably. Cut their funding, organize protests, write letters to your representatives, hand out flyers.

    Laws should be passed to make it easier to spot and track fake news stories. Facebook should have been required to clean up its fake news problem. Some of these stories shared millions of times appeared on websites that were designed to look real, that’s not parody or fair use, that’s gotta step on some legal toes somewhere. These are all things that you don’t like to do because it interferes with your conceptions of free speech. But, again that’s what you don’t understand, the people who watch and read these things are not like you, they believe it and enjoy things that confirm their prejudices. You have to stop acting like millions of people don’t believe and share fake news stories everyday, this is significant.

    If you want to respond to this by telling me about how I don’t understand free speech, I just want you to know that arguments like that are exactly why Trump won. If you are cool with letting organizations spread fake news to millions everyday, because you don’t want censorship, well, that’s exactly why Hillary lost. “Truth” is not contagious, and should therefore be defended from virulent fictional sensational stories, much more aggressively with any legal means available.

    @goldmund52: Once again, like the others lecturing me on the harm of alternative medicine, I think you failed to see the tiniest of points I tried to make. In the original post I said nothing about meditation and diet curing my illness. This is an important point you all keep glossing over, to attack me with the “this is the harm” tropes. Dwell on that for a second.

    I said my illness leaves me feeling helpless and without control, and that alternative practices help me regain that sense of control. I totally allowed for the possibility of them not working. Bachfiend even responded somewhat nicely and said that doing something might be better than doing nothing, and I agree.

    I’m sorry those people died seeking alternative treatments. I’m not a monster, I have empathy and can understand the negatives of these treatments. However, I also do see a lot of cherry picking, for example, you described someone being hurt by a chiropractor, okay, now let’s ask what do the stats tell us? Are most people harmed by new age beliefs and ideologies? What about chiropractors? Do acupuncturists tend to cause serious harm to their patients? What about me, I went through all the mainstream medical things, and none of you can do anything to help me, I’m not harmed by meditating and believing some new age things, am I? Do you think I would avoid life-saving surgery in favor of meditation? Do you think most new age people would?

    When you misrepresent the average and instead focus on negative outliers, literally the worst possible outcomes, you are pushing your audience further and further away. If you want to convince someone like me you need to make arguments that speak to everyday outcomes not outliers. If you don’t, I can simply just point to all the negative outcomes of mainstream medicine. Who do you think has killed more people? Just in terms of raw numbers? How many overdoses, accidental deaths, hospital borne illnesses and other things have happened over the years? If you don’t want to be drawn into a discussion like that then don’t talk about extremes, anyone can point to extremes. You will lose the raw numbers game every time simply because you are the mainstream, there are dirty hospitals everywhere and doctors prescribing drugs on every block. Vaccines are totally safe, except when they cause horrific rare outcomes which everyone knows happens sometimes, and money is set aside every year for those lawsuits.

  78. chikoppion 15 Jul 2017 at 6:19 pm

    [Echo] @chikoppi: I can defend all the points I made. Read it in full, then form a complete response…. please? Because It appears as though you can’t get past the first few lines.

    Re: “Old White Men.”

    Your assumptions and extrapolations do not represent or even resemble my experience or my position. You know who else are ‘old white men?” Many if not most of the people whom the skeptical movement frequently criticize and oppose and who in turn oppose it. How does that factor in to the demographic narrative?

    Re: Einstein, Truth, etc.

    [Echo] On Truth: The entire blog post up there presents a very specific narrative about the nature of science, it’s pace and difficulty. That entire narrative is false. It however is presented as truth. The article has “truth” in the title, “truth” appears multiple time in the writing.

    You can argue with me over the nature of science and it’s pace. But you cannot debate my claims that Novella presented Einstein incorrectly and used him as an example to argue that science is so hard now, and was so easy back then. That fictional factoid is used to create a false narrative that Novella clearly believes, this isn’t the first time he has described Einstein as picking “hanging fruit.” None of Einstein’s original published scientific papers are one-page long, it wasn’t that easy to get a PhD or a Nobel Prize back then.

    Let’s grant that everything Steve wrote about Einstein and the historical progress of science is false and unfounded.

    Re: Knife-fighting

    [Echo] On knife-fighting: Every single skeptic fails to understand how the world really works. This might be because you grew up watching Walter Cronkite and his followers, where the “truth” was “true.” Everything was easy, black and white. News papers and tv anchors told you the “truth.” Wrong….

    Again, that description doesn’t remotely resemble me. I make my living by effecting change in people’s behavior. More than that, I’m good at it and get paid for the results I produce. Is this the part of the lecture where you demonstrate the dangers of generalizations and false assumptions? Oh…”you people.”

    [Echo] The weapons you need to wield to win this war of ideas are things you are incapable of, due to your cold rationality and lack of emotional intelligence. You have no empathy, respect, or patience for people who disagree with you. You are likely somewhere on the spectrum. You are highly functional of course, and intelligent, no one is debating that. You just are disconnected from the world. You are too good to get dirty fighting in the muck with us. You don’t understand us, and we don’t understand you.

    “You are likely somewhere on the spectrum.” FFS. Get over yourself.

    However…now I see. ‘How can you care about automobile safety when children are starving?’ Or, ‘You’re not agreeing with me in the right way.’

    There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to persuasion. That’s a professional opinion. I tailor my message to the audience and situation as appropriate. How I present an argument in this forum is not how I reason with my ‘crazy uncle’ over dinner. There isn’t one fight or one front. There are many. The skeptic movement has its place, which doesn’t preclude individuals from being active on other fronts in other ways.

    This was interesting…

    [Echo] I said my illness leaves me feeling helpless and without control, and that alternative practices help me regain that sense of control. I totally allowed for the possibility of them not working. Bachfiend even responded somewhat nicely and said that doing something might be better than doing nothing, and I agree.

    That exactly parallels the reason I have heard many individuals give for voting for Trump. It didn’t matter whether the things he said were true, because it gave them a sense of control to vote for an outsider who claimed to put their concerns first.

  79. Joon 15 Jul 2017 at 6:23 pm

    @Echo
    “Are most people harmed by new age beliefs and ideologies? What about chiropractors? Do acupuncturists tend to cause serious harm to their patients?”

    No one is claiming acupuncture or homeopathy commonly cause direct harm, for a very simple reason – they don’t and this isn’t where the main problem lies.
    The issue is that various CAM remedies are promoted as a viable alternative to “mainstream” medicine, and an average person doesn’t question it. It’s not a problem because taking echinacea when you feel under the weather can further harm you, it’s a problem, because it fuels people’s distrust in evidence based treatments and in science in general. It teaches people that critical thinking is not necessary, as long as what they’re being told sounds pleasant enough.

    “If modern medicine answered all the questions and put them at ease and cured all ailments people would not go looking for magic. Is it so hard to understand why people seek treatments for chronic ailments that have no cure?”

    It’s not hard to understand, and I don’t think anyone is saying that.
    There are many unanswered questions, and while some people might have the need to fill the void with something, it doesn’t make the products of their imagination and desperation legitimate.
    The issue with CAM is that it’s presented by it’s sellers, and perceived by consumers as a genuine, effective alternative to the “mainstream” medicine, while the latter is the only option that has in any way been proven to truly help.
    You’re saying that modern medicine doesn’t offer all the answers, but the alternatives have been existing for much longer. If they provided any actual solutions, why did we even start searching for anything else in the first place?

    One major issue is that things like supporting CAM, a preference for organic food and being against GMO are considered to be legitimate, educated choices, while they’re nothing else but unsubstantiated beliefs, and shouldn’t be treated any differently than all other decisions influenced by religion.

    Lastly, you’re defending CAM by saying it helps you, as it offers solutions you can’t get elsewhere, but it doesn’t make it any less unproven or any more serious. Depressed people are free to join a church and dedicate their lives to God, if it helps them to escape the fear of unknown, but it shouldn’t be considered a viable treatment option, even though it’s likely more effective than CAM.

  80. Echoon 15 Jul 2017 at 7:17 pm

    @chikoppi: That’s quite a typical skeptical response. All the classic stuff is there. You argue from exceptions to counter my very general mostly factual claims. You claim you are being straw-manned and misrepresented while cherry picking and straw-manning my position.

    I didn’t say a single thing about you specifically being an old white male doctor, I said that about various contributors to the comments here. I happen to be right, as anyone can see if they do some reading. We even have goldmund fully owning that label which is very honorable, cool of him to admit and talk openly about. Everything you wrote about how special and unique you are, and how you aren’t an old white male doctor, does not disprove my claims, sorry.

    I also said absolutely nothing about how persuasion is easy, and one method works in all situations. Your quotes are out of context. For example, you asked me how to fight this war, I gave various replies, pointed out multiple factual problems, contextualized them in terms of different generational viewpoints It’s a fact that older people grew up during a very different media environment, they laugh when you try to explain media bias. Young people know that as a fact, they know that truth doesn’t really exist and you certainly won’t find it on TV. They prefer informed opinions to objective truth, the culture has changed. This is why you see panel discussions on good network news and not just monologues. Most articles have multiple authors now, we need to collaborate to cover multiple perspectives, there is no one true perspective anymore.

    Comparing me to Trump voters. Classic skeptic move. Novella has to mention Trump in his articles now too, in order to make comparisons between disparate concepts, as some pathetic attempt at staying relevant. When he doesn’t do that he compares people that might have mild disagreements with him, to flat-earthers. Because going to widely-trusted culturally accepted alternative medical practitioner is equivalent to flat-eartherism. I disagree, I must be a flat-earther too. Please show me the data, find out how many people believe in flat-earth, then show me how many people die of hospital borne illnesses since apparently we are talking about stuff that’s not related.

    I never said what Trump did was right, I said how he won versus people like you. I can empathize with people who voted him for various reasons. I personally didn’t vote for him. You can only feel unheard, isolated, forgotten for so long. Hillary didn’t speak to people on that same level, didn’t visit Wisconsin, assumed that the blue wall wouldn’t fall. Trump was not an insider, people assumed he would at the very least jolt the system. He lied, but he seemed more genuine to many people. Hillary prepped too hard for the debates, stuck to the high road and talked down to people. Just like how you talk to me. You ignore me and keep repeating old tired arguments I’ve heard hundreds of times now, on TV, in newspapers and all over the internet. Honestly some of these interactions I had with people almost exactly like you, before the election. They were so sure Hillary would win. You are disconnected, you don’t even see me, I’m like right here hello?

    You talk around me essentially about things I didn’t actually say, and you compare my very reasonable feelings of losing control of my life when a migraine hits me to Trump voters? And you think I need to get over myself? I’m a human being you just mocked, for attempting to regain a sense of agency I lost due to an illness…

    Previously I described skeptics as cold, insensitive and with a low emotional intelligence. Would you say that your behavior here challenges that idea, or reaffirms it?

  81. mumadaddon 15 Jul 2017 at 7:37 pm

    Echo: “Everything you wrote about how special and unique you are, and how you aren’t an old white male doctor, does not disprove my claims, sorry.”

    Chokoppi: “Your assumptions and extrapolations do not represent or even resemble my experience or my position.”

    Anyway, vaguely stated woo beliefs and incredibly verbose, pedantic responses to misrepresentations of others’ arguments. Patternicity?

  82. Echoon 15 Jul 2017 at 7:56 pm

    @mumadadd: I wish I could understand what you are talking about. First the quotes you selected are out of chronological order, and I feel like you took me out of context.

    I was talking about how chikoppi took what I said about skeptical commenters here in general to mean that I somehow knew everything about him. Exceptions do not disprove generalizations and averages. Goldmund even embraced the old white male doctor theme. I never said anything specifically about chikoppi, so writing all about how unique and exceptional he is doesn’t directly challenge anything I said.

  83. TheGorillaon 15 Jul 2017 at 8:06 pm

    chikoppia,

    I’ll step back a bit and start over, maybe that will help.

    There is this attitude in the skeptical community that there is an Objective Reality that we can have access to through science, reason, etc — and that through these methods we can end up with facts that show things “The Way They Really Are.” As an example look at ideas like the following: we are all stardust, we are the universe understanding itself, and so on.

    The problem with this perspective is that it is rooted in a stereotypically Enlightenment view of progress — science and human knowledge has over the years come closer and closer to understanding how the world *truly* works (or, that we have progressed to understanding what is *truly* moral; or even historical ages measured by types of technology).

    But knowledge is inseparable from the society it is produced in, whether that is the overt manipulations of political bodies or more subtle things like the influence fundamental cultural values. An easy example is the idea of the brain as a computer — leaving aside for the moment the value or accuracy of this working assumption, this is a view that could not exist without a certain technological background, **and** it is a view that determines which research programs are popular and funded — embodied theories of cognition were dumped to the sidelines.

    The same issue exists in academic institutions (and this blog has brought this up numerous times!), where the corporatisation of the university leads to publishing pressure and program design the emphasises $$$. It’s not just the answers to questions that depend on historical factors, but even *which/how* questions get asked. Another example: certain research bodies measure global happiness with economic freedom and GDP, and policies are measured by whether or not they create jobs — without capitalism we would be thinking about those issues in a very different way (if at all).

    Another example is what Ancient Aliens theorists do in their anthropological analysis. The UFO mythology originated in the 40s/50s with fears about technology, the USSR, seemingly endless progress, nuclear weaponry, etc — the form it has taken is highly particular to our contemporary historical conditions. There is a relatively clear connection between the fact Greys have enlarged craniums and no genitalia and cultural views about the body (Heaven’s Gate was all about ascetic purity, and quite a few male members underwent surgical castration), transhumanism, intellect, and so on. **HOWEVER**, when they look back to ancient Egypt for examples of UFO encounters, they are transplanting their own lens, completely UNIQUE to the contemporary era (and even then mostly in the United States), back in time to reinterpret history as if our current era was eternal. We do this sort of thing all the time.

    Anyways, the point is that this is just as much a historical period as any other historical period, and our scientific truths are going to be subject to the exact same concerns as the truths of any other historical period, and this is regularly forgotten in practice (even if not in speech). Science and quantitative data in general are the masters of today, which is why CAM attempts to legitimise their treatments by adopting the privileged status of scientific discourse.

    But note that there is no necessary connection between this and having to say that homeopathic “vaccines” are just as good as actual vaccines, or that vaccines don’t work.

  84. mumadaddon 15 Jul 2017 at 8:12 pm

    Echo,

    You’re right, I wasn’t clear. How about this:

    Echo: “[1. Everything you wrote about how special and unique you are, and how you aren’t an old white male doctor], does not disprove my claims, sorry.”

    Chokoppi: [1. “Your assumptions and extrapolations do not represent or even resemble my experience or my position.”]

    Hopefully you can see the claim about the text and then the text.

    And, hopefully, this quote will make sense in the context of what I just said (I mean the text in this square box above this sentence).

    “I never said anything specifically about chikoppi, so writing all about how unique and exceptional he is doesn’t directly challenge anything I said.”

    …odd.

  85. mumadaddon 15 Jul 2017 at 8:14 pm

    chikoppi.

    My apologies.

  86. mumadaddon 15 Jul 2017 at 8:23 pm

    Oh balls, I emboldened the wrong letters:

    chikoppi.

    My apologies.

  87. chikoppion 15 Jul 2017 at 8:25 pm

    [Echo] I didn’t say a single thing about you specifically being an old white male doctor, I said that about various contributors to the comments here. I happen to be right, as anyone can see if they do some reading. We even have goldmund fully owning that label which is very honorable, cool of him to admit and talk openly about. Everything you wrote about how special and unique you are, and how you aren’t an old white male doctor, does not disprove my claims, sorry.

    Nope. You attributed the character of the Skeptical movement to biases you believe common to ‘old white men.’ I pointed out two things. 1) I do not fit your profile. 2) ‘Old white men’ are just as common among the opposition to the skeptical movement. Medical professionals are prevalent here because Steve’s other blog is “Science Based Medicine.” Other skeptical groups are not at all similar in age or professional inclination.

    The character of the skeptical movement and the character of ‘old white men’ do not correlate. The one does not cause the other.

    [Echo] I also said absolutely nothing about how persuasion is easy, and one method works in all situations. Your quotes are out of context. For example, you asked me how to fight this war, I gave various replies, pointed out multiple factual problems, contextualized them in terms of different generational viewpoints It’s a fact that older people grew up during a very different media environment, they laugh when you try to explain media bias. Young people know that as a fact, they know that truth doesn’t really exist and you certainly won’t find it on TV. They prefer informed opinions to objective truth, the culture has changed. This is why you see panel discussions on good network news and not just monologues. Most articles have multiple authors now, we need to collaborate to cover multiple perspectives, there is no one true perspective anymore.

    Except that you specifically said the skeptical movement is ‘doing it wrong.’ That isn’t acknowledging that different methods have value in different applications or that a diversity of approaches is necessary.

    You observed that this blog has an over-representation of older white men inclined toward medical professions. What do you think the appropriate mode of engagement is for such an audience?

    [Echo] I never said what Trump did was right, I said how he won versus people like you. I can empathize with people who voted him for various reasons. I personally didn’t vote for him. You can only feel unheard, isolated, forgotten for so long. Hillary didn’t speak to people on that same level, didn’t visit Wisconsin, assumed that the blue wall wouldn’t fall. Trump was not an insider, people assumed he would at the very least jolt the system. He lied, but he seemed more genuine to many people. Hillary prepped too hard for the debates, stuck to the high road and talked down to people. Just like how you talk to me. You ignore me and keep repeating old tired arguments I’ve heard hundreds of times now, on TV, in newspapers and all over the internet. Honestly some of these interactions I had with people almost exactly like you, before the election. They were so sure Hillary would win. You are disconnected, you don’t even see me, I’m like right here hello?

    YOU brought up Trump and the election. I never said you agreed with him. I pointed out that the reasons you gave for embracing CAM were similar to the reasons people have given for embracing Trump.

    Who is ignoring whom?

    [Echoing] You talk around me essentially about things I didn’t actually say, and you compare my very reasonable feelings of losing control of my life when a migraine hits me to Trump voters? And you think I need to get over myself? I’m a human being you just mocked, for attempting to regain a sense of agency I lost due to an illness…

    I told you to get over yourself for the following statements you made about me…

    [Echo] You have no empathy, respect, or patience for people who disagree with you. You are likely somewhere on the spectrum. You are highly functional of course, and intelligent, no one is debating that. You just are disconnected from the world. You are too good to get dirty fighting in the muck with us. You don’t understand us, and we don’t understand you.

    I’m a human being you just marginalized and dismissed out of hand. Where does that leave us?

    And by the way…”millennials” primarily broke for Clinton in the election. If you want to influence the next outcome it is the ‘old white men’ that you’ll need to persuade.

    http://college.usatoday.com/2016/11/09/how-we-voted-by-age-education-race-and-sexual-orientation/

  88. chikoppion 15 Jul 2017 at 9:27 pm

    [TheGorilla] Anyways, the point is that this is just as much a historical period as any other historical period, and our scientific truths are going to be subject to the exact same concerns as the truths of any other historical period, and this is regularly forgotten in practice (even if not in speech). Science and quantitative data in general are the masters of today, which is why CAM attempts to legitimise their treatments by adopting the privileged status of scientific discourse.

    But note that there is no necessary connection between this and having to say that homeopathic “vaccines” are just as good as actual vaccines, or that vaccines don’t work.

    Thanks for taking the time to expand your point.

    You seem to be saying that the proliferation of pseudo-science (or at least how it is marketed) is in part due to the social value placed on legitimate science. I can agree to a degree. I’m not sure that the solution is to de-emphasize, rather than stress, the importance of evidence-based decisions.

    There is this attitude in the skeptical community that there is an Objective Reality that we can have access to through science, reason, etc — and that through these methods we can end up with facts that show things “The Way They Really Are.” As an example look at ideas like the following: we are all stardust, we are the universe understanding itself, and so on.

    I actually agree with this point also, to a degree. Science is about developing reliable models of predictability – making sure our actions produce the outcomes intended. Those models describe the relationships between things and how they work. The value ascribed to them is relative to the beholder.

  89. Echoon 15 Jul 2017 at 11:07 pm

    @mumadadd: Nope I don’t understand what you are talking about. I’m serious. You still are quoting us out of context and chronological order, which shows how little you care about reality.

    @TheGorilla: Yes! Good job. That’s an excellently crafted post. I truly believe your words are wasted on these people though. This is a self-selecting community, they might call themselves openminded educated critical thinkers but there are no guarantees. You can see this easily in mumadadd’s drunken posting and his pathetic self-corrections of single letters he missed, meanwhile he can’t even coherently make basic points or quote conversations in chronological order.

    I just want you to know that you are right and you need to keep it up. Don’t get discouraged by their behavior. If you can’t find encouragement and inspiration here go elsewhere and keep writing and expressing yourself, your thoughts are important. Don’t let these people tell you that your concerns are not real, and that your arguments are poorly crafted.

    One of the things you just described is this community’s problems with scientism. I agree 100%. They will tell you it’s not real, but they are all wrong. They are so deeply trapped in a culture of scientism they don’t understand the world around them, they can’t communicate clearly, they hate dissenting opinions and can’t write anything without heavily biased opinions weighing them down. Every book they read is by someone promoting scientism, they follow dogmatic ideas about the nature of the world and our place in it. They have no problem with humiliating people who disagree with them. They hate everything that is beautiful and do not feel anything, they lack empathy and basic respect.

    These blog articles by Novella are filled with biased opinions, incorrect summaries, and problematic claims. The quality in general is quite low, and no one ever has anything to say about it. His writing would not pass any kind of academic quality control. When people offer to correct his spelling or grammatical errors he tells them it doesn’t matter.

    Novella’s article above, has actual technical errors in it, massive ones that miscategorize the history of science and feed a fraudulent self-serving narrative about how science is hard now because Einstein did all the easy stuff. None of these skeptics spotted the error, because they believe it makes sense. They think it totally makes sense that Einstein was given a PhD and a Nobel Prize for a “one-page paper,” (Novella’s actual ignorant words).

    I think it’s kind of tragically beautiful that these skeptics misunderstand the contributions and efforts of one of the greatest science personalities of all time. It says so much about who they are and what they really value. They clearly don’t care about “truth” as much as they dogmatically rant about. There’s been quite a few comments since I explained how Novella’s claims about Einstein are false. It’s all just one quick google search away. No one has said a single thing to me about it. They are cowards, they cannot point out the flaws in their leader, or even mention them out of fear of being attacked by the horde. They will nitpick the tiniest of errors they think I make though and misquote me while doing it. They will personally attack and insult my experience with chronic illness in order to portray me as a Trump voter.

    @chikoppi: No apology for belittling my personal attempts to regain some of the control that was taken from me by an incurable illness? No acknowledgment of my feelings, or experiences? …. Errr Okay..

    You quoted me as “specifically” saying the skeptics are “doing it wrong.” I did not say this anywhere, as anyone can easily verify. This is intellectual dishonesty, and I find it curious that someone who touts themselves as a professional would use such obviously false and deceptive tactics. Yes indeed, I do notice that you used single quotation marks. This doesn’t actually make a difference, indirect quotations or paraphrases are never to be expressed with single quotes either. Please go review quotation rules. A professional like yourself should not make such a mistake.

    Good luck with defending yourself from this one, it’s pretty cut and dry. It’s one of those objective facts you skeptics love so much. Quotation marks, single or otherwise, are not to be used like that. You really painted yourself into a corner here because you said in that exact same sentence that I “specifically” said something and then incorrectly used the quotation marks. I’m sure you will just ignore it and learn nothing like a typical cowardly skeptic. Exactly like Novella won’t correct his hilariously inept claim that Einstein got a PhD and a Nobel prize for a “one-page paper.” You skeptics, are all exactly everything you hate about the world, you just use more sophisticated scientific language. Your narratives are just as self-serving and fictional as those of the people you hate. You are not above fabricating specific quotes or historical details.

    So if I didn’t “specifically” say what you dishonestly quoted, what did I actually say? …Maybe try reading it.

    Lol, your USA Today article is about exit polling!! That’s not an objective measure of anything. This shows a monumental lack of self-awareness on your part, you don’t even know how unqualified you are to have a serious political discussion. Only someone truly ignorant about these things would dare post a link to such an early, out-dated and flawed analysis. There’s multiple articles from that same time period that said things that turned out to be false just a few months later when we had more data.

    As you can see that article was last edited Nov 9th, 2016. There exists much better data now, including detailed explanations of how people voted and why Clinton lost. Numerous campaign autopsies are out there. Books have been written with exclusive interviews. Statistical analyses have been conducted using much more data then your USA Today people had on Nov 9th. This data doesn’t show that we simply needed to convince more old white men. In fact, you’ll find that any of the major analyses do not support anything you have to say on this topic.

  90. chikoppion 16 Jul 2017 at 3:43 am

    @chikoppi: No apology for belittling my personal attempts to regain some of the control that was taken from me by an incurable illness? No acknowledgment of my feelings, or experiences? …. Errr Okay..

    Belittling? No acknowledgement? What were my first two words to you?

    You quoted me as “specifically” saying the skeptics are “doing it wrong.” I did not say this anywhere, as anyone can easily verify. This is intellectual dishonesty, and I find it curious that someone who touts themselves as a professional would use such obviously false and deceptive tactics. Yes indeed, I do notice that you used single quotation marks. This doesn’t actually make a difference, indirect quotations or paraphrases are never to be expressed with single quotes either. Please go review quotation rules. A professional like yourself should not make such a mistake.

    Your pedantry is unimpressive. Were you searching for a blanket, declarative statement? How’s this:

    [Echo] Skeptics like to believe that they know the “truth.” The word is present in one form or another in most of their writing. Despite the fact that they claim to love science, they seem to forget that science doesn’t provide the Truth. They write condescending, but yet naive, things that go unchallenged because they are in a cesspool of likeminded followers. Skeptics like to state biased things that are quite easily knocked down, but claim it’s truth. This is further complicated by their weak defensive strategies that essentially amount to labels and mockery.

    Or this:

    [Echo] On knife-fighting: Every single skeptic fails to understand how the world really works. This might be because you grew up watching Walter Cronkite and his followers, where the “truth” was “true.” Everything was easy, black and white. News papers and tv anchors told you the “truth.” Wrong….

    This isn’t you declaring unequivocally that skeptics are ‘doing it wrong?’

    And yes, I used single quotes to distinguish the words from a verbatim quote, which you noticed exactly as intended. Care to address the content, rather than the style guide?

    So if I didn’t “specifically” say what you dishonestly quoted, what did I actually say? …Maybe try reading it.

    See above.

    Is all this a demonstration of your superior powers of empathy and insightful persuasion or is it a measure of your high emotional intelligence?

    Lol, your USA Today article is about exit polling!! That’s not an objective measure of anything. This shows a monumental lack of self-awareness on your part, you don’t even know how unqualified you are to have a serious political discussion. Only someone truly ignorant about these things would dare post a link to such an early, out-dated and flawed analysis. There’s multiple articles from that same time period that said things that turned out to be false just a few months later when we had more data.

    As you can see that article was last edited Nov 9th, 2016. There exists much better data now, including detailed explanations of how people voted and why Clinton lost. Numerous campaign autopsies are out there. Books have been written with exclusive interviews. Statistical analyses have been conducted using much more data then your USA Today people had on Nov 9th. This data doesn’t show that we simply needed to convince more old white men. In fact, you’ll find that any of the major analyses do not support anything you have to say on this topic.

    Analysis? The point I was making is that the “youth vote” already broke for Clinton. Trump received no better support from millennials than did Romney, despite the fact that the 18-29 range was the only group to expand turnout. Trump performed no better among millennials than a man who was the very embodiment staid, wonkish, and cerebral. 2016 wasn’t some watershed moment in the millennial consciousness.

    What source would you like to refer to in determining the demographic breakdown of the 2016 election by age? Please indicate the “much better data” that contradicts the exit polls. Here’s the census bureau ’16 voter supplemental, 05/17 (see especially figures 3 and 4).

    https://www.census.gov/newsroom/blogs/random-samplings/2017/05/voting_in_america.html

    Comparing 2016 reported voters by age:
    18-24, all races and genders: 11.5M
    45+, only non-Hispanic white males: 33.6M

    Here’s the Atlantic on the significance of millennials for the midterms:

    Even so, the Millennial influence has been diluted by their relatively low turnout numbers. Final figures for 2016 won’t be available until the Census Bureau produces its report on the election, but the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, which studies younger voters, estimates that only about half of eligible Millennials voted last year. That’s about the same as their lackluster performance in 2012. In each presidential election since 2000—except for 2008, when turnout spiked—younger voters have comprised a substantially smaller share (from 5 to 7 percentage points) of the actual electorate than they represent in the eligible electorate. By contrast, baby boomers and their elders have consistently comprised a higher share of the actual, as opposed to eligible, electorate.

    Turnout among younger voters has also skidded precipitously in midterm elections. According to exit polls, the share of the vote cast by voters under 30 plummeted from nearly 1 in 5 to less than 1 in 7 both from 2008 to 2010 and from 2012 to 2014. In both cases, seniors’ share of the vote increased by a comparable amount over the same two-year spans. Each time that shift helped drive big Republican gains.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/03/can-millennials-save-the-democratic-party/518523/

    I did not say “we simply needed to convince more old white men.” I said, “If you want to influence the next outcome it is the ‘old white men’ that you’ll need to persuade.”

    All of which, by the way, is completely beside the point.

    Skeptics are not a political movement. Skeptics promote evidence-based reason. It would be entirely antithetical to abandon appeal to evidence and reason in favor of appeal to emotion for this or any purpose. Individuals, when representing the skeptic position, are not going to engage in that behavior.

    You’re barking up entirely the wrong tree for entirely the wrong reasons.

  91. chikoppion 16 Jul 2017 at 4:14 am

    [Echo] They will personally attack and insult my experience with chronic illness in order to portray me as a Trump voter.

    What was that about “intellectual dishonesty” and “deceptive tactics?”

    [Echo] I said my illness leaves me feeling helpless and without control, and that alternative practices help me regain that sense of control. I totally allowed for the possibility of them not working. Bachfiend even responded somewhat nicely and said that doing something might be better than doing nothing, and I agree.

    [chikoppi] That exactly parallels the reason I have heard many individuals give for voting for Trump. It didn’t matter whether the things he said were true, because it gave them a sense of control to vote for an outsider who claimed to put their concerns first.

    Am I “attacking your experience?” Am I “portraying you as a Trump voter?” Or am I pointing out a parallel of behavioral justification between two separate testimonies?

  92. Steve Crosson 16 Jul 2017 at 8:58 am

    Echo,

    You said:

    Laws should be passed to make it easier to spot and track fake news stories. Facebook should have been required to clean up its fake news problem. Some of these stories shared millions of times appeared on websites that were designed to look real, that’s not parody or fair use, that’s gotta step on some legal toes somewhere. These are all things that you don’t like to do because it interferes with your conceptions of free speech. But, again that’s what you don’t understand, the people who watch and read these things are not like you, they believe it and enjoy things that confirm their prejudices. You have to stop acting like millions of people don’t believe and share fake news stories everyday, this is significant.

    I share your concern about the proliferation of fake news. As others have said, I believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but no one is entitled to their own facts. I would like to believe that we can do something to control the spread of disinformation and even outright lies, while still allowing the vigorous discussion of opposing viewpoints that a healthy democracy requires.

    But the devil is in the details. How exactly do you think we can accomplish that? What laws or enforcement mechanisms can we establish to reach that goal?

    It seems pretty obvious that before we can even begin to pass the laws to address the problem, we must be able to define “truth” in the first place. Without some generally agreed upon standard of evidence, how will we ever get past the current environment where it seems as if both sides of every issue simply declare the other side’s opinion to be “fake news”.

    You certainly can’t just trust the enforcers of those laws, i.e. the government, to magically know the truth — especially considering the current crop of elected officials.

    You’ve been disparaging skepticism, but seriously, what else is there? The scientific method is the only tool with a successful track record. It may be imperfect and sometimes painfully slow, but it works. Nothing else comes close. Of course we should be skeptical of any claim that is not supported by good evidence. In what other way do you suppose that we can ever reliably reach “the truth”?

    Also, a little friendly advice. Don’t take every disagreement as a personal attack. You subject yourself to needless angst. With few, if any, exceptions, Steve N. and virtually all commenters here tend to focus their ire solely on the people who actively victimize other people. At most, we may bemoan the fact the everyone (including skeptics) is subject to self delusion and making bad decisions simply because we are human. But the goal is always to help us recognize our own errors and avoid them. It is only the bad actors who ever get publicly called to the carpet.

  93. mumadaddon 16 Jul 2017 at 1:47 pm

    Echo,

    Echo: “[1. Everything you wrote about how special and unique you are, and how you aren’t an old white male doctor], does not disprove my claims, sorry.”

    Chokoppi: [1. “Your assumptions and extrapolations do not represent or even resemble my experience or my position.”]

    “Everything [chikoppi] wrote about how special and unique [he is]”

    …is that one sentence I quoted. Clear enough? Hence the out of sequence order.

  94. mumadaddon 16 Jul 2017 at 1:53 pm

    Echo,

    “You can see this easily in mumadadd’s drunken posting and his pathetic self-corrections of single letters he missed, ”

    Yeah, I was drunk. Sue me. I do try to not misspell people’s names though. In fact I apologised to you for the very same thing earlier in this thread. Seems like a minor point but I was genuinely just trying to be polite.

  95. Echoon 16 Jul 2017 at 2:26 pm

    @chikoppi: I do not see an apology. I see you justifying and attempting to legitimize your abusive behavior by continuing to insult me. The reason it’s offensive what you are doing, is that you are playing around with a very sensitive detail of my life: my struggle to attempt to regain the sense of agency that a chronic incurable illness took from me. I have literally been stranded and helpless in a crowded subway station, unable to get help, unaware of what was happening to me.

    I fully admitted that meditation/diet might not work, but that it helps me feel like I’m more in control of my inescapable fate. It might be an illusion, but the psychological aspects are very real. Meditation was recommended to me new age people, but also symptom management people and doctors in a hospital, because there is tons of research showing the benefits of meditating. I have been straight forward with my diet and meditation practices with every specialist I have seen, they do not make fun of me, or compare my logic to that of Trump voters. So yes, you are an insensitive, manipulative, dishonest, unempathetic person, in other words: a Skeptic.

    About your truly pathetic defense of your intellectually dishonest quotation… It’s black and white, check literally any academic standards online, APA, Chicago, MLA, writing guides and tips on any college webstie…

    Indirect quotations or paraphrases are never to be expressed inside quotation marks, single or otherwise. It’s not even just that one error you made, you also in that same sentence, preceding your dishonest quote, wrote that I “specifically” said something, which I did not say!

    You need to let go of this feeling of superiority that you must clearly have and accept the facts. Single quotes are not used for paraphrases or indirect quotes, your defense of this objectively incorrect/dishonest behavior just shows the lengths you will go to double down, and fight to the bitter end.

    This isn’t honorable, this is exactly the problem with you Skeptics. Even when shown clear evidence that you messed up, you still don’t shut up. If you can’t recognize an error this small, and learn from it, how are we ever supposed to have a serious discussion on more complex topics?

    Your giant selected quotations of mine, which is a style choice I would describe as vapid sophistry, do not justify your previous dishonest quoting. It’s clear that my original thoughts are much more delicately nuanced than your portrayal. Not only did you present a very cherry-picked selection from limited perspective, but you also have no problem with just making things up, and drawing inappropriate connections.

    You will fabricate quotations and take sensitive personal information about someone’s experience with chronic illness and bend it into a pro Trump straw man. You are truly everything which you claim to see that is wrong with the world. If one of your enemies took sensitive personal details and spun them into such a ridiculous straw man, you would never shut up about it. It’s like how flat-earthers are a standin for everyone you skeptics hate, despite that it’s such a insignificant amount of people who believe in that nonsense. They dared to say something so ridiculous that you will not stop using it as an example.

    This is such a basic, easily verifiable claim, anyone can just google quotation rules and guidelines and see how they should treat indirect quotes and paraphrases. I notice that later on in your incoherent defense of your simplistic idea that Clinton supporters needed to convince more old white men, that you have no problem bring up sources and references.

    Notice how you did not do that with your inept defense of your dishonest quotations? Where’s your sources coward? Show me where you learned that it is acceptable to use single quotation marks preceded by “specifically,” to indicate a PARAPHRASE OR AN INDIRECT QUOTATION. Maybe you don’t know what it means to use the word “specifically.”

    You will not find such a source, and you know it. So you don’t dig there, you ignore the war on that front, because you lost. And you turn to defending something else, where you can dig up information, that might be vaguely related to your claims. Classic skeptic move.

    So why did Clinton lose? First of all, your new sources are unrelated to your original claim, and only serve to further highlight your ignorance of politics. You also don’t get points for finding better sources than a USA today article from Nov 9th, because I am the one that told you it was outdated and flawed!

    So now you are learning from me, mirroring, adapting and improving your behavior in response to my attacks. This in itself is an admission of wrongdoing. If your Nov 9th article, based on early data and exit polling, was good enough to support your claims, then you wouldn’t feel the childish need to scramble up some new sources, you would just leave it.

    You NOW know that it’s based on exit polling, and not concrete data. You know its not objective, nor a good source, and that it’s out of date, all because of me. Your welcome, Skeptic. It’s a pleasure to educate you on the correct use of quotation marks, and how they cannot be used for indirect quotations or paraphrases. And now I’m teaching you about the difference between exit polling data and more concrete and objective numbers.

    Every second you spend attempting to argue that Clinton lost because of old white men, and all the sources you find showing that millennials voted for her, is time wasted. That’s not why Clinton lost, it doesn’t matter how many little factoids you can dig up that support your simplistic claims. We don’t say ship sunk due to minor engine failure, if it suffered catastrophic damage from a collision. We say it sunk because of the giant hole in the hull after the collision.

    For Clinton the catastrophic damage came from multiple sources. The blue wall, everyone assumed would hold from the Obama collation, fell. She lost the black vote, fake news, emails, lack of clear messaging, the Comey email investigation including his negative value judgement of her while saying he was pursuing no charges, his reopening of that investigation right before the election day. These are all issues that have much more to do with her loss than your old white men vs millennials, simplistic and self-serving narrative.

    Are you sure you are not an old white man? Because an old white man would really benefit from a narrative where he and his peers were not sufficiently wooed by the Clinton campaign. Once again, just like the false narrative that science used to be so easy that Einstein got a PhD and a Nobel prize for a “one-page paper,” this is just another simplistic narrative that makes the big bad world much easier for a little whiny skeptic to understand.

    http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/05/12/black-voter-turnout-fell-in-2016-even-as-a-record-number-of-americans-cast-ballots/

    At the end of your diatribe you claim that “Skeptics are not a political movement,” wow really? Once again you demonstrate how you know literally less than nothing about politics. I don’t care how often Novella repeats this talking point as gospel, it’s completely wrong. Please crack open some political science books. This is akin to one of my friends who always says “I am not a hipster,” despite very much being hipster by almost any definition. Long thick beard, top knot, follows all the latest trends, retro thick rimmed glasses, claims to be and is viewed by many as being counter cultural, etc.

    You actually don’t get to decide if you are a political movement or not. It’s an objective, externally recognized fact that you are, and I’ll explain why. You have a following, podcasts listeners, conferences and social media fans. You are a collection of people who share many of the same beliefs and biases when it comes to interacting with the world. Then this collection of people, Skeptics, they tackle political topics all the time. If you believe in climate change, that’s a political stance. Or, GMO safety, promoting vaccines, attacking the Trump administration’s policies etc. Those are all political positions, and writing convincing arguments to attempt to recruit people to your group or to promote change , IS THE VERY NATURE OF POLITICAL DISCOURSE.

    All of the rhetorical techniques you skeptics use, come from political debates thousands of years ago. The origin of argumentation is not science, it was first used to govern nations. Plato’s “Republic” predates the modern scientific method by quite a few years, and from what I’ve seen Mr Novella naively write about Einstein, it’s very unlikely that you Skeptics know the actual history of science. You probably think that in the enlightenment they were doing rigorous hypothesis testing and had very similar methodology that is used today. You have no idea that these modern practices are less than 70 years old.

    It’s such a backwards perspective to claim that what you are doing isn’t politics. Remember when TheGorilla described how Skeptics don’t understand the cultural underpinnings of their knowledge? Well here you are trying to tell me that you are apolitical, when in fact everything you hold dear, literally the origins of your methodology is from political discourse. Additionally, it is explicitly political to say many of things you say.

    If you still believe in your heart that Skeptics are not political then ask yourself what would happen if your movement grew to tens of millions of supporters? Do you think this would not have a measurable effect on votes? Would Trump not personally attack you and seek funds for advertisements against your group? Would his campaign not seek oppo research on Novella, and dig up dirt on him? Do you think that your group is politically diverse and that the overwhelming majority of American Skeptics will not vote against Trump in the next elections?

    Ok one last powerful argument, what does it look like in reality when political movements are outlawed? In China for example it would be a punishable offense to have this website up and running. (Yes I know you have skeptics in Hong Kong, that however is not exactly China and if you have been watching recently, it is losing more and more sovereignty every day.) Hosting a Skeptical conference where people gather and listen to speakers who say things critical of the government, or promote atheism, would get you beheaded in Saudi Arabia. You can’t even be a protestor holding up a sign in some of these countries. Thailand would throw you in jail for publicly announcing your skeptical views, and critiques of the government. So yeah, sorry, you are a political group! It’s not my fault, don’t blame me, do some research maybe read political science book, or watch a lecture online.

    Arguing that you aren’t political is an expression of total ignorance of the of the rights and freedoms you currently enjoy here in the west. It’s a direct insult to everyone in the world currently imprisoned for saying things much less critical of their governments, than what you have said about the Trump administration. It once again shows your lack of empathy and respect, additionally it reaffirms everything I have said about Skeptics being detached, on the spectrum, emotionless people.

    @Steve Cross: I like this reply of yours it’s pretty decent and seems genuine which I appreciate. I feel like you wrote it in response to a couple things I said, however I believe you didn’t really see the giant part where I explained the laws would just be one part of the attack. I never said that it would be the only solution, I also explained that the KKK wasn’t taken down by laws like that, but by unrelated lawsuits and bankrupted. O’rielly was also not taken off the air by laws, but by capitalistic influences and boycotting. There are many effective methods to attack other than changing laws, which I did outline, just to be crystal clear before I move on to your points.

    A very simple thing a lot of conservatives don’t understand is the need for new laws. A common talking point we often hear is that they just want supreme court justices that are traditionalists, people who properly read the laws the way they were expertly crafted by the founders to be followed. They don’t like people who change the laws or offer new takes or interpretations. This is a deeply flawed outlook for many reasons.

    As Skeptics know, there is always a new fad, product, scam, or cult coming over the horizon. For this reason you need new laws, if a new deadly recreational drug emerges and becomes wildly popular, you need new legislation to tackle that. You better have someone intelligently crafting new laws or you are welcoming exploitation. Depending on how you feel about the drug war that example might not resonate with you, but take the example of revenge porn. Where angry exes post explicit photos and videos of their former partner online to humiliate them. New laws had to be crafted to tackle this phenomenon.

    Not all states have these laws though, and you can guess what the traditionalists have to say about that. You can say if people want to be that immoral and foolish in the first place, then they deserve what they get. But this logic is like saying that people who get STDs deserve their fate, for having intercourse out of marriage and not be virgins till then, and therefore we shouldn’t have laws that require hospitals and doctors to treat them. If a christian baker can deny a cake to a same-sex couple, why can’t a christian doctor decline to treat someone who is behaving immorally?

    Fake news was very likely the killer new app that devastated Clinton’s chances. It’s just like the examples above, it’s exploitative and was able to thrive outside legislation and regulations in place at the time. A lot of people like to blame social media in general, but this isn’t exactly right, social media is just the tool and like most tools it can be used for good or for destruction. I feel like I have given you enough information to see the logical conclusions.

    If we have a new uncontrolled, virulent, dangerous thing, happening in our world, we should probably try to stop it. If their are literally no laws written to prevent this phenomenon from exploiting vulnerable people we should craft some. If tech companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter don’t have sufficient regulations and practices in place to curtail this phenomenon, we need to force them, by any legal means necessary, to enact them. The alternative is the proliferation of fake news, stories invented from scratch for political or financial motivations, reaching millions. Swaying opinions, picking up votes, deciding elections.

    There are examples of fake news articles on websites that were made to look very authentic. But these websites would literally just have the one page with the article and advertisements on it, no other content. That kind of thing is easy to detect, and should be heavily scrutinized. I don’t think it needs to be outlawed, but it should be black listed from Facebook feeds.

    The biggest problem is that there was literally no checks and balances in place during the election. No laws, regulations, or guidelines to prevent this sort of thing. You could share a fake news story that was completely fake, something like pizzagate which can be easily fact checked in seconds. That’s of some concern, if your system lets literally the worst examples slide on by, you got some real problems. Facebook users don’t have the right to total freedom of expression, it’s not a public forum that’s legally protected, it’s a corporation’s website and servers you are using. The Washington Post isn’t legally required to publish every insane letter they receive. Facebook didn’t act sooner because no one really knew how serious of a problem this was going to be, and because it directly interfered with their bottom line. They have a vested interest in presenting people with sensational stories, veracity does not factor into their calculations.

    Unfortunately Steve Cross, this is where our common ground ends. I do not hold your views on “truth.” Your definition of the word is so wide, you conflate it with concepts such as: common belief, ideological opinions, objective reality, veracity and the scientific method. If you can read Novella’s article above and see no problems with it, you are biased. It has factual errors in it and presents a very fictional view of the history of science. If you don’t see them, then check my posts.

    The article above is about the “fragility of truth” but it has easily confirmed fictional information in it, including fabricated historical details. This just goes to show how vulnerable even the greatest members of your community are to self-deception and fabricating information. It’s not just that he didn’t know what Einstein got his PhD and Nobel for, it’s that he described it as a “one-page paper” which it is not. Novella then goes on to write about how science was so easy back then, and Einstein simply plucked the “low-hanging fruit.” Novella laments that now science is so slow and incremental, but hes’ wrong it was also that way back then.

    Einstein was not some lowly patent clerk who happened upon a massive discovery all alone. He was a genius yes, highly educated and known for arguing with his professors. His work however, is an incremental step and took many years to verify, for example LIGO just detected gravity waves recently, this was first predicated a 100 years ago by Einstein. In 1905 he published multiple impactful papers, but wasn’t awarded the Nobel till 1922. The same patten can be seen everywhere in science. He was also not a perfect person, he rejected many of the newer physics ideas which we now universally accept, and toiled fruitlessly on an impossible project.

    The example of the LHC, which Novella misused in the article, actually shows this perfectly, the Higgs boson was first theorized in the sixties. It took decades for Englert and Higgs to receive their Nobel prize. The problem doesn’t appear to be with the pace of theoretical underpinnings but with the application of their ideas. The same was true for Einstein a century ago. The problem isn’t with the pace of these intelligent people’s ideas, but specifically with the technology, materials and engineering. Don’t try to tell me that everything is science, we all know the names of famous scientists, but try naming all the material science people know know, followed by famous systems engineers, and the people who designed the physical mechanisms at the LHC. Clearly this culture celebrates the big ideas and insults the people who try to make it happen. This feeds a narrative that Skeptics like to believe, where science is so slow and hard now, but it was so easy for people back in the day.

  96. mumadaddon 16 Jul 2017 at 2:56 pm

    Echo,

    I wouldn’t mention this were you not such a pendant.

    “A professional like *yourself* should not make such a mistake.”

    A pedant like *you*, who quotes style guides at obsessive length, should know that it is gramatically incorrect to say ‘yourself’ in a sentence unless the word ‘you’ preceeds it somewhere in the sentence.

    Let me say that I am surprised but not shocked.

  97. mumadaddon 16 Jul 2017 at 2:57 pm

    Oops. *precedes*

  98. chikoppion 16 Jul 2017 at 2:58 pm

    @Echo

    Uh-huh. Sure.

    I’m perfectly confident to let the record stand on the basis of the exchange preserved above.

  99. Steve Crosson 16 Jul 2017 at 3:22 pm

    Echo,

    @Steve Cross: I like this reply of yours it’s pretty decent and seems genuine which I appreciate. I feel like you wrote it in response to a couple things I said, however I believe you didn’t really see the giant part where I explained the laws would just be one part of the attack. I never said that it would be the only solution, I also explained that the KKK wasn’t taken down by laws like that, but by unrelated lawsuits and bankrupted. O’rielly was also not taken off the air by laws, but by capitalistic influences and boycotting. There are many effective methods to attack other than changing laws, which I did outline, just to be crystal clear before I move on to your points.

    Unfortunately Steve Cross, this is where our common ground ends. I do not hold your views on “truth.” Your definition of the word is so wide, you conflate it with concepts such as: common belief, ideological opinions, objective reality, veracity and the scientific method. If you can read Novella’s article above and see no problems with it, you are biased. It has factual errors in it and presents a very fictional view of the history of science. If you don’t see them, then check my posts.

    I’ve read all of your posts, but the same question still arises. If you don’t like my definition or method of seeking the truth, then please propose another. I agree that new laws are needed — but which laws and on what basis are they crafted?

    The same problem occurs with every single one of the other “effective methods” that you mentioned. Any proposed action must necessarily have a goal in mind. How do you determine what that goal should be? You clearly don’t think that skeptics are doing it correctly. What is the right way to do it?

  100. Pete Aon 16 Jul 2017 at 4:09 pm

    [Echo] … for example LIGO just detected gravity waves recently, this was first predicated a 100 years ago by Einstein.

    I must’ve missed both this recent detection and its predication by Einstein. I thought LIGO had been designed to be insensitive to gavity waves.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravity_wave

  101. Echoon 16 Jul 2017 at 4:44 pm

    @mumadadd: regarding grammar

    https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/grammar/when-to-use-myself-and-yourself

    As with myself, there are two standard ways of using yourself to which nobody will object: as a reflexive pronoun (Did you hurt yourself?; Help yourself to some cake, Tim) and for emphasis (You are going to have to do it yourself).
    Staff who deal with the public in businesses such as restaurants, call centres, and the like, quite often use yourself in a rather different way, as a substitute for you: Is this soup for yourself?; Is the appliance for yourself, sir? Using yourself in this way should be avoided in any kind of formal writing, and is considered wrong by some people even in speech. Arguably, however, it fulfils a useful function in the situations mentioned: it sounds more formal and less direct than you, and is thus perceived as more polite.

    I never claimed that an informal writing style is unacceptable. That would be kinda silly to do since my own writing is filled with slang, non words such as “wahhh” among other informal conventions plus many mistakes. Not to mention direct insults of your entire community and your lord and saviour. Including some that specifically targeted your drunken one-liner posting style, followed by corrections of single letters you missed. You can’t coherently express the simplest of points you are trying to make, even when you issue corrections and follow-ups. You think its totally okay to quote people out of context and chronological order, what the hell do you think you are doing, honestly?

    I did not claim to be professional. Chikoppi did, he emphasized that his was a “professional opinion,” and used his professional background and money he makes, as an appeal to authority in order to talk down to me, and to educate me on his childish ideas about old white male voters and USA today articles.

    Unlike what you are doing now, I did not correct a grammar or spelling mistake he made, but an inappropriate quote. He quoted me as “specifically” saying something which I did not say! He used single quotes but that’s not an appropriate defense, as single quotes are never to be used to express indirect quotations or paraphrasing either.

    The single quote defense is also pathetic because in the exact same sentence, right before the quote appears, he used the word “specifically,” hmmm… Kinda really hard to defend his innocent use of quotation marks when it’s preceded by a word that means: in a way that is exact and clear; precisely.

    In casual conversation if you tell someone that they “specifically” said something, which they did not say, they will call you on it. Try it, go up to someone right now and try it. It’s not pedantic of them to react that way, it is pedantic to correct grammar though.

    @chikoppi: Really? Nothing to say about the political nature of skepticism? Oh so sorry to hear you are giving up, whiny skeptic. I won’t miss your fabricated quotes and your ability to transform a personal story about my struggle with an illness into a pro-Trump strawman.
    P.S. Still waiting on the sources that say you can use the word “specifically” and then single quotes, to represent an indirect quotation or a paraphrase. Aren’t “paraphrase” and “specifically” contradictory concepts? Ahh… what do I know, I’m not a glorious well-paid professional such as yourself. Funny how you could dig up so many sources for your other arguments but on this point you were always essentially silent. Goodbye.

    @Steve Cross: I’ve explained this a few times, so has TheGorilla. Skeptics misuse the word “truth.” ALL THE TIME. When you mean various things like: factual, objective, scientific, rational, logical, realistic, fair; you use the word “truth.” Truth is not all those things, not all logical statements or sentences are truthful. Science frequently produces non-truths, faulty experimental designs, human errors, deceptive practices often lead to false things being published. There are statements, equations and charts in textbooks being printed right now that are not true. Skepticism is not truth either, as you can see from the article above, Novella makes a historical claim about Einstein that is completely false. The most fervent defenders of his work say idiotic stuff, fabricate quotes and think its all good to just keep charging forward with new nonsense or outright ignoring their mistakes. Is that “truthful” behavior?

    You need to drop this talking point and move on. Learn about the legal understanding of veracity instead. Learn what philosophers mean by “truth.” Truth is connected to ideas about the nature of reality, so unless I’m missing some giant discovery, science still has not solved that one, and cannot. If you think it can, go check out TheGorilla’s post.

    When I say something is fake news, I do not mean on some scale from falseness to absolute truthfulness. But you do. Skeptics always frame things in simplistic dichotomous relationships. I mean the story lacks veracity, that the details are incorrect. You mean, it’s fake, it’s lies, it’s simply not true.

    The problem with this, is that you set yourself up to see other sources as “truthful,” like Novella’s article above. If you think something like that could appear in a textbook or mainstream publication or academic text, you are delusional. His writing is filled with biased and false narratives, it’s written from one specific viewpoint, its harsh and offensive to outsiders and wrong. Like actually lacking veracity. The details about the history of science and Einstein are wrong. Google it. On alternative medicine he frequently misrepresents the current state of the profession, as we can see the Mayo clinic sells books on alternative medicine. His thoughts on new age ideology are decades in the past, he treats it like its a minor annoyance, meanwhile the reality is that it’s deeply infused in the cultural milieu. It’s not “truth” to completely misrepresent your opponent’s size and influence. It’s also not truth to equate someone going to a culturally-accepted universally-trusted alternative practitioner like a chiropractor with flat-earthers. That’s a biased, bigoted opinion that happens to ignore what it’s actually like for the average person in this culture who isn’t a “Skeptic.” They simply do not know, and their beliefs are not comparable to thinking the earth is flat.

    At the end of your post you only show this problem you have with appeals to some absolute reality again. By replacing “truth” with “the right way.” There is no perfectly right way to accomplish complex tasks. That’s the answer, reality is complex and mysterious. You can tackle the problem of fake news with many of the things I described, I do not know which is best because unlike you I do not believe in the one truth path of Skepticism.

    Only a fanatic thinks there is a “right way” to do something this complex. Yes I did highlight multiple problems with the skeptical approach, that does not somehow mean I must believe I know the absolute perfect approach. I do know that isolating your audience, insulting people in official blog articles written by a leader of the community, writing biased opinions and presenting them as fact, doesn’t work. I know for sure that’s ineffective, and movements that act like that are destined to fade away. You already act like you are these giant heroic beings, who are the arbiters of truth, but you don’t see that literally every war you have ever fought you have lost. You like to point to tiny victories, little lawsuits here and there, but literally every entity you have ever tried to fight has only grown. Either you are ineffective, misguided, and wrong, or somehow there is this vast confluence of events that prevents you from having a single elected official representative, courses taught in high schools, lobbying groups for the government, a coherent voice etc.

    @Pete A: **Claps** Congratulations, I’m not a physicist. Gravitational* waves I should have said. I would like to mention that this same error, I made, is in multiple news articles, and in fact when you google: “gravity waves” you get the wikipedia page for “gravitational waves,” and results for LIGO.

    If you see tiny mistakes like that in my writing why not the gaping holes in Novella’s published articles? Why don’t you apply that specialized knowledge, and tackle this claim: “We will probably never again see a situation where someone like Einstein publishes a one-page paper that earns him a PhD and a Nobel prize, changing our fundamental view of the nature of physics.”
    Do you still not see why people hate Skeptics? This is exactly why, you apply your talents to everything and everyone else but yourselves. This is your religion.

  102. chikoppion 16 Jul 2017 at 5:07 pm

    Oh…you dishonest slouch.

    [Echo] I did not claim to be professional. Chikoppi did, he emphasized that his was a “professional opinion,” and used his professional background and money he makes, as an appeal to authority in order to talk down to me, and to educate me on his childish ideas about old white male voters and USA today articles.

    Context…

    [Echo] On knife-fighting: Every single skeptic fails to understand how the world really works. This might be because you grew up watching Walter Cronkite and his followers, where the “truth” was “true.” Everything was easy, black and white. News papers and tv anchors told you the “truth.” Wrong….

    The weapons you need to wield to win this war of ideas are things you are incapable of, due to your cold rationality and lack of emotional intelligence. You have no empathy, respect, or patience for people who disagree with you. You are likely somewhere on the spectrum. You are highly functional of course, and intelligent, no one is debating that. You just are disconnected from the world. You are too good to get dirty fighting in the muck with us. You don’t understand us, and we don’t understand you.

    [chikoppi] Again, that description doesn’t remotely resemble me. I make my living by effecting change in people’s behavior. More than that, I’m good at it and get paid for the results I produce. Is this the part of the lecture where you demonstrate the dangers of generalizations and false assumptions? Oh…”you people.”

    My reference to my profession was presented as counterpoint to your ludicrous ad hominem.

    You are the only one banging on about punctuation, rather than addressing content and context. No one misses that.

  103. chikoppion 16 Jul 2017 at 5:19 pm

    [Echo] @chikoppi: Really? Nothing to say about the political nature of skepticism? Oh so sorry to hear you are giving up, whiny skeptic. I won’t miss your fabricated quotes and your ability to transform a personal story about my struggle with an illness into a pro-Trump strawman.

    Yeah…here it is, as it was written:

    [chikoppi] Skeptics are not a political movement. Skeptics promote evidence-based reason. It would be entirely antithetical to abandon appeal to evidence and reason in favor of appeal to emotion for this or any purpose. Individuals, when representing the skeptic position, are not going to engage in that behavior.

  104. Steve Crosson 16 Jul 2017 at 5:56 pm

    Echo,

    I’ve never asked you to accept my definition of “truth”. I’ve asked you for your definition of “truth” or whatever it is you prefer to use when evaluating choices. Surely you don’t just flip a coin. You must have some process to determine which actions are most likely to lead to your desired outcome.

    Feel free to reject the skeptical approach that you so disparage, but you must have an alternative. What is it?

    How can you tell “real news” from “fake news” without a process? How can you decide which new laws might be needed? How can you possibly determine which of your other “effective methods” will be likely to be successful if you don’t have a way to evaluate them? Even the determination of “veracity” requires objective evidence.

    You’re welcome to criticize the skeptical method. We all freely admit that there is plenty of room for improvement. But unless you are willing to present an equal or better method, I doubt anyone will be impressed.

  105. Echoon 16 Jul 2017 at 6:52 pm

    @chikoppi:

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-fragility-of-truth/#comment-349950

    “Uh-huh. Sure.

    I’m perfectly confident to let the record stand on the basis of the exchange preserved above.”

    What happened, had to come back and prove you are a liar once again? I thought you were done? What happened here?

  106. chikoppion 16 Jul 2017 at 7:15 pm

    [Echo] I thought you were done? What happened here?

    Address your repeated and willful mischaracterization of motive.

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-fragility-of-truth/#comment-349851

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-fragility-of-truth/#comment-349975

  107. Echoon 16 Jul 2017 at 10:15 pm

    @chikoppi: It’s true that you said you were done here, essentially dismissed and ignored me, only to return soon after. It’s one of those objective facts you skeptics love so much, you are objectively a whiny loser. Like a child in a schoolyard that has to yell the last word before running off with his hands over his ears.

    Your latest response to my explanation of how skepticism can’t possibly be apolitical, is just a copy-pasting of your previous statements, which I already replied to… Skepticism at it’s finest!

    If you think your statements are “objectively true,” unquestionable or that I didn’t challenge them, you are also perfectly demonstrating the problems with skepticism. If you want to stop this vapid pedantry and childish mirroring routine, in order to have an actual conversation, please at the very least tackle my last argument on the topic. Where I described how in countries that outlaw political movements, skeptical websites, conferences and public lectures would not be tolerated. How then is it possible that this movement isn’t political? People are in jail right now, in counties like Turkey for saying things much less critical of their governments, than what skeptics have to say about Trump. How do you not see at this point that claiming skepticism is apolitical, is a massively ignorant statement that just shows how unaware you are of your own privilege? It’s an insult to every single political prisoner on the planet.

    @Steve Cross: Not only do you have an obsessive preoccupation with “truth,” and the one true path of Skepticism, which is the “right way” to do things. Now you are demonstrating an absolutely fanatical viewpoint that skepticism is the only possible way to get anything done in the world. This is objectively false, Clinton’s campaign was run by very educated critical thinking skeptical people, who wouldn’t stoop to spreading conspiracy theories and fake news. They wouldn’t write speeches for her filled with lies and misinformation. What does this tell us? That in 2016, in the seat of global power and influence, the campaign for president was won not by skeptical critical thinkers, but by demagoguery. If a team of Ivy League critical thinking, political insiders with billions of dollars to burn, couldn’t win an election versus an inexperienced bumbling outsider, what does that say about your much smaller, on the fringe, skeptical movement?

    Strategies just like those you would have used if you Skeptics worked for the Clinton campaign, lost the election. Clearly skepticism is not the most “effective” strategy to get the launch codes. I’m sorry, is that not a good enough argument for you Steve Cross?

    Skeptics also like to cast a really wide net when describing who they are what they represent. Everything they like about the world is dragged in the net: science, “truth,” critical thinking, and logic to name a few. Sorry to break it to you, your movement is not those things, you don’t get to claim ownership over ideas and concepts that are thousands of years old and unrelated to your tiny movement. Your movement has no political representation, power or influence. You have barely enough money to fight lawsuits. You’re just some speakers, blogs and podcasts. You are not academia, science publications, science in general nor are you science communicators or journalists. Some might be, but in general those are things quite distant from the modern skeptical movement.

    There is a serious problem with pragmatism here, skeptics like to think that whatever works falls under their umbrella, they claim to own the scientific method, critical thinking and anything that leads to a discovery or breakthrough. Technology itself, is often described as theirs. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve seen a skeptic argue that modern technological breakthroughs are a direct result of their ideological viewpoint.

    You own everything that you think is good, all the bad things come from your opponents. You love to tell stories about these rare cases where people get seriously hurt or killed by alternative medicine, but you slink away from all the data about hospital borne illnesses, over prescribing, the opioids crisis, malpractice or accidental overdoses. You think of the rare alternative medical treatment-related deaths as bad deaths, and you tolerate/ignore the multiple medical crises happening right now that are a direct cause of some of your ideological beliefs, or you must consider them acceptable losses or good deaths. I think all these types of deaths are bad. I also think that if modern medicine was without these multiple problems that a lot less people would be attracted to alternatives. This is just another case of only applying your talents to everything other than yourselves.

    You expressed multiple times now that skepticism is the one true path. If you can’t win an election with strategies you describe as the “most effective,” what use are they? If you can’t break into the mainstream, get a network tv show, sell books, garner a giant social media following, get a single elected representative, or become a widespread cultural phenomena that changes things… what can you do? Game of Thrones and Gwyneth Paltrow have had more an impact on this culture than you. Cheerios has more brand recognition. More people have purchased and read a book by Deepak Chopra, than the sum total of people who are simply aware that “skeptic” isn’t just a word for someone who’s a negative-doubter-contrarian-type. You’ve likely spent so much time in this echo chamber than you’ve forgotten how most people feel about skeptics and what they associate the term with.

    What is your methodology good for? Science? Finding the “truth?” You can’t win the tiniest of battles but you want to change the world. You misrepresent your opponents, fail to understand what motivates people and refuse to play the game politically. People are literally in jail right now all over the world for saying things much less critical about their governments, but yet somehow you think it’s apolitical to mock your president and critique his every move. Novella throws casual critiques of the Trump administration into his rhetoric all the time now. That is something that would at the very least get you arrested in multiple countries around the world. Novella is one of the leaders of a group of people, this whole thing would be seen as a political movement in many other places in the world. It also is seen that way here, by any outsider who simply searches for Trump references among skeptical content. But the insiders don’t see it, their norms, biases and definitions for key terms have been shifted by their association with the skeptical movement. “Apolitical” to a skeptic means something like: we don’t overtly focus exclusively on political issues. But to anyone else the word should mean something much closer to it’s actual dictionary definition. Skeptics also think that if something is “true,” then talking about it, convincing people of it’s “truthfulness,” isn’t political. For example, they almost universally agree that climate change is real, therefore talking about it isn’t a political endeavor because it’s just a statement about reality. This is only the case for Skeptics. The ideological left has accepted climate change, the right has not. They fight it and deny it’s existence at every turn. Both sides are doing political things. If you think it was apolitical for Clinton to announce that “yes of course I believe in science…. climate change is real,” you are delusional. The left tried very hard to associate itself with science and intellectual pursuits. This was a calculated political move, that failed.

  108. chikoppion 17 Jul 2017 at 12:07 am

    I will answer this question in good faith, with the expectation that you will acknowledge and correct your continued mischaracterization of my motives (which you again made after I let my case rest).

    – – – – – – –

    I never said skepticism is “apolitical.” That’s a word you introduced. I said, “Skeptics are not a political movement.”

    The purpose of the skeptical movement is to promote the application of evidence-based reason. The skeptical position is that individuals and organizations should seek and and be provided the most accurate information possible, apportion belief based on the quality of that evidence, and act rationally to attain the desired outcomes – whatever those objectives may be.

    This applies to all areas decision-making, including politics, education, economics, health care, child-rearing, defense, nutrition, agriculture, research, etc., etc.

    Do these areas intersect with politics or have political implications? Of course. Is the objective of the movement to effect a particular political outcome unrelated to the application of evidence-based reason? No.

    Given this, it is unsurprising that individual skeptics would have different political aims, priorities, positions, or alignments. The point of skepticism is that these differences should be discussed and resolved based on the merit of the evidence, not emotional appeals or fallacious tactics.

    If some portion of the electorate has determined that blind tribalism and the cult of personality is more important than objective decision-making, then that is where the skeptical movement should engage. Opposing, not participating, in the trend.

  109. BillyJoe7on 17 Jul 2017 at 12:25 am

    What the last few days have illustrated is that it is not too difficult to create a massive straw man and set it alight.
    Nothing Echo has said relates in any way to scepticism and science.
    If she has issues with certain sceptics and scientists that have blown in her direction, that’s not the fault of science or scepticism.
    And notice how she has engaged in the very tactics she criticises in sceptics.
    But she certainly has her Narrative and she’s going to stick with that narrative come hell or high water.

  110. BillyJoe7on 17 Jul 2017 at 12:53 am

    Regarding Steven Novella’s point about Einstein and low hanging fruit:

    Firstly, Einstein won the Nobel Prize “for his contributions to physics, especially the photoelectric effect”. It was a short paper but it was not a one page paper.

    But his point was that, in the past, it was possible for an individual scientist using their own basic equipment to come up with solutions that revolutionise science, but nowadays it takes large groups of scientists working with expensive equipment over many years to fill a little piece of the puzzle.

    The phrase “low hanging fruit” was perhaps unfortunate, but it’s missing the point to concentrate on that and come up with a narrative about the author that is contrary to the facts.

    Perhaps Echo can tell us what she has done to advance knowledge and truth in our deceptive world

  111. Echoon 17 Jul 2017 at 3:46 am

    @chikoppi: … I want to like you, I honestly really do, I just find everything you write is so incredibly dishonest. You have ignored the specific point I have made about how skeptical activism would not be tolerated in the countries that outlaw political movements, quite a few times now, even when specifically asked to address it. I have dedicated many words to attacking the skeptical movement in general, very few of those words have contained much of anything specifically about you. When I talk about apolitical-ness I’m referencing the many times Novella himself, has chosen to describe his work as “apolitical.” This sentiment is also present in various forms in the community in general, and you just echoed it yourself.

    At this point you are just using that infamous skeptic ability to split hairs. You wrote another hollow argument, this time in an attempt to explain the difference between being apolitical, and not being a political movement. The problem is that there is no material to support you. All you are doing is repeating tired old arguments you have heard skeptics say, but you never even bothered to look up the terms yourself. If you had you would see everything you just wrote is wrong, as is easily demonstrated.

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

    In the social sciences, a political movement is a social group that operates together to obtain a political goal, on a local, regional, national, or international scope. Political movements develop, coordinate, promulgate, revise, amend, interpret, and produce materials that are intended to address the goals of the base of the movement. A social movement in the area of politics can be organized around a single issue or set of issues, or around a set of shared concerns of a social group.

    So which part of that description do you have a problem with? Skeptics are most definitely a social group. I sense it’s the other parts you have trouble with. A political goal would be things like:
    – getting the Trump White House to take climate change seriously and act on it.
    – making critical thinking lessons a required part of mainstream education
    – ending sexism, racism, all the bad -isms, establishing equality for all, closing the gender wage gap
    – ending government funding of X, wanting an increase in Y
    – crushing fake news, cracking down on people who spread “lies”

    These are all political goals, and they have all been stated by many skeptics. People in these very comments have expressed some of these ideas. If you still don’t understand how these are “political” or “goals,” I suggest you learn the meaning of those words, they are objective facts, you’ll love them. So we have thus far established that skeptics are a social group, that often have quite a few solid political goals they mostly all want.

    You cannot be a member of the skeptical movement and believe that critical thinking skills should not be taught to as many people as possible, that itself is a political goal. The only way to accomplish such a giant task is to use the mechanisms of government to change legislation, allocate funds, change regulations and guidelines for teachers etc. If you want to reach as many people as possible you would need to get it into the elementary and high schools (an idea I know many of you share). If you think you don’t need government to enact the most effective change on this issue, then that is kinda apolitical, but also naive, destined to fail and impossible to fund. It’s actually not apolitical, because you will be met with political resistance and find yourself having to surpass political hurdles. For example, my best friend is a teacher, and she is not allowed to teach material that is not in the curriculum for fear of losing her job. During the election multiple teachers were cautioned against sharing their unsolicited anti-Trump views with their students. This would be just one small hurdle you would have to overcome to get more critical thinking lessons into schools. If you wanted to do it outside the traditional school system, good luck with that.

    It doesn’t matter if some of you want different things, the vast majority of you want those goals I outlined. If you disagree with this logic at this point, buckle up it only gets worse from here. The only question left to answer is; does your social group, with these political goals, actively work together to try to accomplish them? The answer is obviously yes. Just look at the comments, you can easily see multiple skeptics working together to accomplish various smaller scale goals. They seek to squash dissenting opinions, they want everyone to accept that theirs is the one true path, and they want to protect their leader. Just some examples. When we step back from this smaller scale, we can see that the same behavior exists on the grander scale, Novella for example writes biased narratives, complete with fabricated historical details, that serve some of these same goals. In his posts, skeptics are all knowing gods, non-skeptics are portrayed as flat earthers. He literally compares someone who goes to an alternative practitioner as a flat earther. He writes extensively about various political goals he believes in, and it’s quite obvious that many of his political opinions resonate with his fans.

    You are also a member of a political movement if other people see your behavior in that way, especially those in power. That was my point about Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Thailand… If you think climate change or atheism is legit, and promote it, and your government does not, your position is political by definition. The accuracy, logic, or scientific legitimacy of your claim does not matter when it comes to determining it’s political nature. It doesn’t matter what your “goals,” or “purpose,” are. If you have an audience that you share your belief in climate change with, and you publicly share opinions that are are against those held by whoever is in power, that single act in itself is political.

    @BillyJoe7: Has no one told you that simply claiming that someone is wrong, is not an argument? When you claim I don’t know anything about science or skepticism, I have to wonder why then it is that I attended all those conferences TAM, NECSS, spent all that time in school, wrote all those exams. I guess you must be right, you are a Skeptic after all, I should trust that you, a random stranger on the internet, knows more about my life than I do.

    Your one line in the second recent comment about Einstien’s PhD is great, I said all that already though, right down to the bit about the photoelectric effect. If you happened to read my thoughts on the topic you would have known this, I also said it first, so extra points for me yay. Nothing for you.

    Steven’s “point” about the ease with which science was done in the early 1900’s is incorrect, and so is your flawed attempt to clarify it. Einstein published multiple (multi-page) papers in 1905. He did not have or need much “basic scientific equipment,” because he was a theoretician, much of his work on relativity was done at the patent office, not (almost never?) the laboratory.

    This work done in 1905 took decades to confirm, some of his work just a few years later would take a century to confirm. The Nobel Prize was awarded in 1922. This is quite similar to the state we find ourselves in now. Englert and Higgs first came up with their theory in the 60s and only were awarded the Nobel recently. The false narrative that Novella presents about the LHC providing “one tiny piece to the puzzle of particle physics,” is not a tale comparable to Einstein’s papers. Theory is one thing, application and verification is another. Einstein was not awarded a Nobel Prize for his published papers in 1905, he was only awarded the Nobel after some experimental data came in that confirmed his ideas. This is exactly the same case today…

    The story of the LHC is not about theory but application, engineering and technological limitations. A realistic and fair comparison would have been to compare Einstein’s papers in the early 1900s to, Englert and Higgs’ work in the 1960s, and then their respective applications/confirmations many years later, like LIGO and the LHC.

    Steven’s fabricated historical detail is not just a small error. This is because it fits perfectly with the overall narrative he presents, that it was so easy back in the day and now it is so hard. He has said multiple times that what Einstein did was just the “low-hanging fruit.” This is in line with his claim that now we have to work oh so hard for a “tiny” achievement… maybe go ask some people who worked at CERN if it’s just a tiny piece of the puzzle. I think most of them would disagree. Besides the technology is still all there and being improved upon for new experiments. Even if you think it was small piece you have to recognize how awesome it was to build that equipment, and if you look at it historically it’s impressive to think that the project was imagined and started well before the technology they required was even invented. It might seem like a small piece to the puzzle in retrospect, but imagine if the experimental data showed that the Higgs boson didn’t exist, or at least they couldn’t confirm it since you cant prove a negative. What would that have done to the field of particle physics? Would that have been a tiny puzzle piece? I think it would have shocked a lot of people, we would have needed new experiments and theories.

    About Einstein’s revolutionary contributions, he himself hated these mythologized ideas about him while he was still alive. In fact he would go out of his way to explain how he was able to do what he did. As previously explained, he did not come up with any of his monumental ideas in isolation, he was very well read and familiar with the state of the literature in physics. He added an incremental step to a few different areas in physics, and saw connections between sub fields that were disconnected at the time. It is hard for us to imagine, but there was no instant communication, search engines and papers had to be translated and mailed around. You can choose to see it as miraculous, or you can attempt to view it in the correct historical context. I mean but the parallels are just so obvious, gravitational waves took a century to experimentally confirm, the LHC confirmed a theoretical particle first described 50 years ago. To claim that science used to be so fast and easy is just wrong. Einstein himself had to wait years for the first experimental evidence of his theories.

    Your last line here: “Perhaps Echo can tell us what she has done to advance knowledge and truth in our deceptive world” is such a weak but pretty typical skeptic move. It’s a pretty safe bet that the people you are talking to on the internet are not making giant breakthroughs in science, human knowledge or whatever you think truth is. For example you have done nothing I doubt you even have a background in science, Novella hasn’t made a giant discovery either, nor conducted a single study exposing the pseudoscience he never shuts up about. Those who can’t do, teach and preach. I guess we are all just sad people, and there is no point in doing anything maybe I’ll just give up. I love how you wrote “and truth,” makes me smile. Please go check out some of what TheGorilla wrote on the fetishization of truth. Or my exchange with Steve Cross for more information. It’s like you skeptics can’t help yourselves and have to always explain how you are the arbiters of truth, and we are nothing.

  112. SteveAon 17 Jul 2017 at 5:28 am

    Late to this party, but…

    Echo: “Have you ever had a migraine so bad that a dim light or a faint whisper makes you puke, and all you can do is lay there defenseless waiting for it to be over? Would you really blame someone like me for seeking alternatives?”

    I wouldn’t blame you, but I’d think that anyone doing so was an idiot if the ‘alternative’ wasn’t working either.

    Echo: “I said my illness leaves me feeling helpless and without control, and that alternative practices help me regain that sense of control. I totally allowed for the possibility of them not working.”

    Oh…

    (By the way, how can you have a sense of control when you know it’s not working? That’s like pressing the emergency stop button in a plummeting elevator.)

    And for the record, I used to suffer from puking, red mist, brain-melting migraines when I was in my teens; painful to the point where I might have put a bullet in my head if we’d had a gun in the house. I trained myself to watch out for the danger signs, and at the first inkling of trouble I’d find a dark room and hibernate till the storm had passed. It got better, and in time they stopped completely (most teenagers seem to ‘grow out’ of their migraine phase).

    Oddly, in my thirties I occasionally suffered from weird but painless ‘interference patterns’ in my vision. Some were often bad enough to blind me in my right eye for hours at a time. I later discovered that these were also a symptom of migraine. Again, I kept alert for the danger signs and found that these episodes were invariably connected with long periods of intense concentration in dimly-lit conditions. So I stopped doing that.

    But let me muse a moment. Humm…

    Echo:

    Condescending

    Pedantic

    Hostile

    Dishonest

    Self-important

    Paranoid

    Endlessly verbose

    Takes offence at the drop of a hat

    Accumulates grudges like a hoarder collects old newspapers

    Humm…

    Good name though. Apt. Echo. Fits the endless repetition of increasingly weaker arguments.

  113. Sylakon 17 Jul 2017 at 7:23 am

    Great article, it can seem dark and gloamy ( and it is at some extend), but just the fact that science, as identified how those deception operate, that we know the mechanism that bring a humans brain to believe such craziness, in a way, it’s reassuring. That’s also show how science can be powerful. Science is able to tease out what can go wrong within itself, within the people doing it. It’s not easy, messy and a long process, but still impressive. The one thing that really gets me is that we, humans, always needs to have bad experience before learning something. And we forget quickly. People need to be scam and even suffer to realize they been deceived ( or that they deceived themselves). And that’s sad.

  114. Nidwinon 17 Jul 2017 at 7:52 am

    I’m not certain it’s harder because we have picked most of the lower hanging fruit. I think it’s also because the scientific method has been enforced, forcing academia, and STEM in general, to be much more accurate and focussed.

    There’s no war from the skeptic movement side, at least not one that I’m aware off. Although there’s certainly an issue with scientism and their negative attitude towards others.

    For my migraines and some chronical pains I’ve discovered that the tingles clearly help me out.

  115. Steve Crosson 17 Jul 2017 at 8:33 am

    Echo,

    I’ve never said that skepticism is the only way to the “truth” — merely that it is a pretty good one with an impressive track record. Nor have I ever even come close to suggesting that I was talking about truth as the end-all, be-all philosophical underpinning of the universe — yet you have consistently misrepresented my words to give that impression. That is called a straw man argument.

    I actually asked a very straightforward question about the best way to handle “fake news”. Which you have not answered. Oh, you’ve given various hand-wavy bits about how it is too complicated for just one answer, etc. blah, blah, blah …

    I never said that there was just one answer or that I even had any good answer at all. You, on the other hand, were quite explicit in your claim that there are a number of things that can and should be done, including the creation of “new laws”.

    I asked a specific question about how you would go about determining which new laws would address the problem. You still have not given a reasonable answer.

    Instead, you’ve spouted and endless litany of complaints about “skepticism” — without once offering any credible alternative. If you are so convinced that we are doing it wrong, then you must have some demonstrably better method as a basis of comparison. What is it?

    If you are unwilling or unable to explain a better approach to decision making, then why should we take you seriously?

    And you are completely wrong when you call skepticism a political movement. Critical thinking and evidence based decision making, i.e. skepticism, is merely a tool. It is literally equivalent to claiming that a power saw is more effective than a hand saw when constructing a building — it says nothing about which buildings can or should be made.

    Your examples about certain groups being outlawed because they are skeptics is beyond ludicrous. They were not outlawed because of the tools they used for making decisions. They were outlawed purely and solely because those viewpoints happened to disagree with the ruling party.

    Again, if you really do wish to be taken seriously, you’re going to have to start making substantive answers to the actual questions that are asked.

  116. chikoppion 17 Jul 2017 at 8:40 am

    @Echo

    Sorry you see things that way. If you think every group that shares or promotes similar values must be defined primarily through the framework of politics I can understand why.

    I’m not “splitting hairs.” I’m highlighting a distinction that you seem to refuse exists.

    [Echo] – getting the Trump White House to take climate change seriously and act on it.
    – making critical thinking lessons a required part of mainstream education
    – ending sexism, racism, all the bad -isms, establishing equality for all, closing the gender wage gap
    – ending government funding of X, wanting an increase in Y
    – crushing fake news, cracking down on people who spread “lies”

    I believe that all these things and more would be less difficult to achieve if more people valued evidence-based reason. Therefore, one of the things I choose to do with my time is participate in the skeptic movement. Why? Because the skeptic movement promotes awareness and adoption of evidence-based reason.

    It is the ambition of skeptics to change how people value and approach epistemology, how they think about thinking. By doing so we believe better outcomes will result in all areas of human endeavor, not just politics.

    To wit: if more people relied on rational discourse and apportioned belief based on evidence I believe the last election would have turned out differently.

    Being a skeptic doesn’t preclude an individual from taking a position on particular policies, joining other interest groups, or contributing to political campaigns. Being a skeptic does not preclude an individual from also being a Democrat, or Republican, or a BLM supporter, or a member of an abortion-rights group. But the skeptic movement itself has a single-issue identity with the purpose of promoting the value of evidence-based reason.

    Maybe the better lens for you would be to think of the skepticism movement as an awareness campaign, rather than a political action group (though I wouldn’t use those terms in a conversation other than this one).

  117. Steve Crosson 17 Jul 2017 at 8:53 am

    Echo,

    Regarding your pedantic focus on the Einstein issue, you are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. Even if Steve N. was guilty of assigning Einstein more credit than you feel that he deserves, it is hardly a significant factor when compared to the actual point he was making. For starters, Einstein is widely venerated whether he deserves it or not.

    In fact, the actual point that Steve was making was that science is becoming more and more of a team effort as time goes on. If you are as familiar with this blog as you imply in numerous, quite specific comments about the “typical behavior” of regular commenters, then you must know that Steve has frequently and consistently stated that science is cumulative and heavily depends on past discoveries. A point with which you seemingly agree.

    Yet you choose to focus on a minor detail, which even if it is entirely false, is still close enough to conventional wisdom as to illustrate the larger point — science is hard and getting more so. Your attempt to completely discredit the entire article because of a relatively benign misstatement is ludicrous.

    You seem to be under the mistaken impression that by speaking out against the potential dangers of evidence-free assertions, skeptics are making a personal attack against you. And, presumably, you are retaliating by trying to discredit the entire skeptical community.

  118. Nidwinon 17 Jul 2017 at 9:26 am

    About Einstein and the ones putting him a bit too high on the true genius scale.

    https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/the-forgotten-life-of-einsteins-first-wife/

  119. Steve Crosson 17 Jul 2017 at 11:14 am

    Nidwin,

    As far as I can tell (and I’m not going to waste my time looking it all up) every single one of Echo’s points about Einstein is literally true – and irrelevant. The same can be said about pretty much every scientific figure in history, including Newton (“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”). Steve Novella has made the point many times that science is cumulative and relies heavily on past discoveries. No person familiar with Steve’s thinking (as Echo claims to be) could possibly fail to know that.

    Still, more often than not, one individual has been perceived as being primarily responsible for tying existing knowledge together and thus receives the lions share of the credit, however undeserved.

    But that is changing. Whereas in the past Nobel prizes would often go to individuals, now teams seem to be more common. Put another way, we seem to have done a pretty good job understanding the basics in many different fields of science. Teasing out the details takes more time and more people. Which is a fairly innocuous point that few, if any, real scientists would disagree with. Which, I believe, is the point Steve N. was trying to make — however poorly he may have stated it in Echo’s opinion.

    Regardless, when considering the actual point of the article, this is such an insignificant nit to pick at, that Echo’s pointless pedantry is just silly.

  120. Steven Novellaon 17 Jul 2017 at 12:50 pm

    Echo is indeed nitpicking and strawmanning. I never said science in the past was easy. But there is an arc to scientific advancement. Early experiments with light and electromagnetism worked out the basics, but their work only went so far, it took far more complex math and many experiments to build a case for the quantum underpinnings of the photoelectric effect that Einstein was able to demonstrate theoretically. His paper made a clear untested prediction, that was verified 9 years later by Millikan.

    It’s amazing that Echo would bring up Higgs, which took 50 years and the LHC to confirm. Talk about a false equivalency. He actually makes my central point quite nicely.

    I have interviewed particle physicists on this very question – they are not even sure where things are headed now.

    Take any other field. A monk experimenting with peas made a massive breakthrough in the science of inheritance. Genetic research now is more complex, subtle, technologically challenging, and incremental.

    That is how science advances, you answer broad questions first, then you dig for progressively greater detail, nuance, and complexity. That much is not controversial (unless you have some ideological axe you are trying to grind and find it convenient to make a point out of it).

    Where I went into speculation is the effect this is having on the public perception of science. It is perhaps easier to muddy the waters and to generate doubt and confusion when we are deep into the technical weeds.

  121. Steven Novellaon 17 Jul 2017 at 1:10 pm

    Regarding the skeptical movement and politics, I have explored that question here (http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/bigfoot-skeptics-new-atheists-politics-and-religion/) and elsewhere.

    To summarize my personal position – I try not to mix politics and science communication or promotion of critical thinking. What this means is that I try to keep any personal political views separate, and to identify where the line is between objective scientific questions and any value judgments.

    I do not simultaneously promote any political viewpoint, as some science communicators do (which is their right and is fine, just not my choice).

    But of course, as I have said many times, I and others do try to promote science-based regulations, to protect the institutions of science and science education, and to keep politics and religion from interfering with science. Yes, those are political goals, but they all relate to the promotion of science and critical thinking in our society.

  122. hardnoseon 17 Jul 2017 at 1:14 pm

    “That is how science advances, you answer broad questions first, then you dig for progressively greater detail, nuance, and complexity.”

    And you really think the broad questions have been answered. That is why your thinking is ideological, not scientific.

  123. Steven Novellaon 17 Jul 2017 at 1:32 pm

    HN – your learning curve is flat. Really boring.

    Do you think we can confidently conclude that DNA is the molecule of inheritance, that genes exist, and life evolves, that there is plate tectonics, that electromagnetic waves exist, that germs exist and can cause infectious disease, that diseases exist, etc. Is there no limit to your denial of scientific knowledge? That is ideology.

  124. Echoon 17 Jul 2017 at 2:47 pm

    @SteveA: That is certainly a long list of adjectives and many personal opinions you have to share. I notice you had to put them one word to a line, separated by empty lines. I can’t help but look at that and see how wonderful it is when self-expression perfectly reflects someone’s essential nature. Typical skeptic, empty inside, just a blank canvas with some incoherent scribbles. Unable to express your emotions, extend a hand across the divide, or even express a single original thought.

    I don’t know about your other claims… I think my arguments on the political nature of skepticism are particularly strong and original, I don’t see anyone here actually attempting to explain how: it’s not an insult to the world’s political prisoners to claim what your organization does is not political. People are in jail right now all over the world for saying things much less critical of their government than what you skeptics like to say about your president. That’s a pretty serious attack on your ideas of being “apolitical” and not a “political movement.” It’s also just one of at least 4 separate arguments I gave, including just looking up the word “political movement,” and understanding what a political goal is. Feel free to tackle them any time, cowardly skeptic. Or continue on exercising your privilege and ignorant of the rights and freedoms you currently enjoy as an old white man in the west.

    @Steve Cross: Okay so you just perfectly demonstrated everything I have been saying this entire time about your entire community. You challenge me, I respond, you claim the response isn’t good enough and then just mostly copy-paste all your old arguments a la chikoppi.

    Guess what Steve Cross, I don’t have to respond to your questions in the exact way you want. Have you ever heard of a leading, or a loaded question?

    When you inappropriately frame everything I have to say into a simplistic summary like: so you think skepticism sucks and we are doing it wrong, then please show us what the best way is, if you can’t then shut up. That isn’t fair or reasonable. When you ask me what the most “effective” path is, or what “truth” is, you are missing the point and only seeing things from your very limited perspective that is mostly just aggressive scientism.

    I never claimed that I knew the most effective path to solving problems. You pressed me on fake news, I gave you MULTIPLE solutions, across different fields, like financial, legal suits, legislation, changing corporate policies. Every single reply of yours was essentially: tell me what the most “effective” path is, tell me what the “truth” is and how we determine it.

    Skepticism won’t tell you what the best option is to tackle the problem of fake news. Sorry, I also love how you ignore my arguments showing that skepticism is not the most effective strategy to get the launch codes. And that Clinton made many attempts to associate herself with critical thinking and science, but still lost.

    The solution to the complex problems in the world is not immediately obvious, the answer is not what is the most “effective” solution, but probably we should be working on multiple things all at the same time. So to tackle the growing problem of alternative news or fake news, we should at the same time be running down all those avenues at once. Some of them are destined to fail, for example Breitbart and others still have no problem with advertisements, meanwhile multiple boycotting campaigns have been launched against them.

    That strategy worked vs O’rielly but not others, they tried it versus Hannity and it failed. The ecosystem of “effective” ideas is always changing, it has defenses against repeated techniques and adapts. Skepticism won’t guide you to the presidency, that means that for that arena of combat, your skillset is wholly insufficient, it doesn’t matter how “true” you believe your methods are, the world’s ruleset is not compatible with your strategies. Attempting to bend the world to your will is foolish. Working with the system, playing the game politically makes much more sense if you want to accomplish what are clearly “political goals.” They won’t be accomplished by writing biting rhetoric that isolates the vast majority of the population.

    Once again, if you think the public would tolerate some of the opinions Novella publishes on this website, you are kidding yourself. To the rest of the world his stuff appears very bigoted and elitist. If you are in a culture that is deeply obsessed with new age ideas, so much so that doctors can freely appear on tv and sell these woo products, you need to tailor your message, reign in your personal attacks and insults. Your audience is the public, if you want to recruit them you need to speak with patience and compassion, coming out of the gate and comparing pretty typical normal people with flat-earthers is not the right way to go. Doing something like what Chikoppi did, and taking my personal struggle with illness, and bending into a pro-Trump strawman, is particularly shameful. Does this mean I know the best way? Of course not, I just know that your messaging is way off-base. Attacking me, misrepresenting these very basic and factual things I have to say, is probably not helpful either.

    Umm.. Steve Cross, your comments on the political nature of skepticism are really awful. It’s inexcusable what you did here, it’s so dishonest and just flat out fallacious. All you did was ignore everything I wrote, and start from scratch with new assumptions: skepticism is now “merely a tool.” Nope, sorry. As you can see from chikoppi’s recent response, even he admits that that my list of “political goals” are things he wants. From my experience with this movement I know this, I see these goals outlined all the time.

    If someone who is one of the leaders of a social group like this, writes about “political goals,” in an attempt to guide, inform, motivate his audience and constantly expresses wanting things to change. Then he is acting politically. If you can’t follow this then you simply are just so trapped inside this echo chamber that you literally have different definitions for the terms central to this argument. Go learn what a political movement is, how it’s defined, it’s not even a close call.

    Calling yourself a skeptic, being a leader in a thing called the skeptical movement, hosting podcasts promoting science and critical thinking, all while expressing views on POLITICAL topics, and expressing clear POLITICAL GOALS, is all things that appear exactly like acting like a political movement. This is all just the factual stuff. The other variable here is how your group is perceived, if you express some skeptical opinions about your government in a country that outlaws political movements, you will be imprisoned. If your group grew to millions of faithful fans, Trump himself would attack you, the republicans would dig up dirt on you and treat you like any other political adversary. If you think that your views don’t sway heavily to the left of the current political system, then once again that’s a symptom of being trapped inside an echo chamber and not understanding how literally anyone on the outside would view your behavior.

    So let’s take this example, I tell you that someone believes in the following things: anthropogenic climate change, feminism/ gender equality, expanding funding into education, hating grand conspiracies. Now based on that limited information, if you had to guess their political ideology, what would you say? If you think it’s not that easy, then you don’t understand how literally anyone else sees you. But I already know this is the case by looking at your writing. It’s a fact that conspiracies spread much more virulently on the right by the way, the right is obsessed with conspiracies and Trump only fed them what they wanted. In other words, being obsessed with critical thinking and exposing the flaws in conspiracies, is a very left -leaning thing to do. The right embraces conspiracies like the voter-fraud investigations going on at this very moment.

    It doesn’t matter that you walked the one true “skeptical” path, fraught with terror, to arrive at your current “political” positions, it only matters where you stand now, at this very moment your entire movement stands in a very specific political position.This is also why so many of you write such weak, echo-chambered, historically inaccurate crap. Many of your fellow skeptics didn’t put the time in to arrive at these positions by walking the long hard road, they just happened to already hold those positions when they started, and haven’t moved since. Oh how terribly difficult it must be for a privileged Ivy League educated white male doctor to come to the conclusion that education and critical thinking is so important. It’s oh so terribly hard for a scientist to see the value of scientific thought, oh how special you all are. Truly miraculous. It’s unbelievable that you cannot see how much of your ideas about the world are shaped by your culture and privilege. It explains how you can’t speak to the rest of the world without sounding so incredibly offensive, and how you think it makes sense to compare totally normal typical behavior with flat-earthers.

    @chikoppi: See above. It has literally nothing to do with being “defined primarily through the framework of politics,” that’s just some imaginary construct you are pointing to now. I’ve explained how it doesn’t matter what methods you use to arrive at your “political goals,” it just matters where you stand on political issues in the present.

    If you happen to believe in climate change, then thats a political position in the current political environment. That’s an unquestionable statement, which I’m getting sick of defending like some idiot screaming into the void. If you disagree, then honestly take a break, step out of the echo chamber, go and talk to an average person, read some newspaper articles, turn on the tv. I’m getting tired of this vapid sophistry where you attempt to use all your talents to nitpick and groupthink your way out of this one. The same is true for the political goals I outlined that your movement has, with which you agree, it matters not how you arrived at these goals, just that they are currently political goals, they will be seen that way by everyone and in order to accomplish them you have to use the tools of political discourse and the mechanisms of government.

    Your skeptical movement could very well start with your pristine concepts like “truth” and critical thinking, but if one of the results is pushing various political goals, then guess what, you are a political movement. I’m done with this honestly, I explained it as patiently as I could. If you still think you aren’t political then just go talk to some average people are your local coffee shop, tell them your beliefs and then ask them to guess your political affiliation, how you voted, etc. I bet that right around the time you finish explaining what “skepticism” means, they will have enough information to make an educated guess. Just from your stilted vocabulary, using rare words like “fragility” when you can’t even fact check basic historical details about your intellectual heroes in your published articles, they will easily pinpoint you as anti-Trump. It doesn’t matter how you got to your anti-Trump views, they are still political. If the vast majority of your movement is anti-Trump and promotes those views, then you are a political movement.

  125. Echoon 17 Jul 2017 at 2:50 pm

    @Steven Novella: Surely this must be a sick joke when you wrote: “It’s amazing that Echo would bring up Higgs, which took 50 years and the LHC to confirm. Talk about a false equivalency. He actually makes my central point quite nicely.”

    Some of Einstein’s ideas took much longer to confirm, the longest of which has to be gravitational waves by LIGO, which took a century. Which I’ve only mentioned like… 4.. times?…

    Also Novella where in the actual f*** is your correction to your claim of the “one-page paper” Einstein wrote that earned him a PhD and a Nobel prize? I’m sorry, I thought you skeptics valued accuracy and had no pride when it came to facts? Love to see how you sailed right past that, and didn’t even bother to correct the article above. Thank you for once again demonstrating how much of a joke your community is.

    OMG THIS IS PRICELESS:
    (Novella): “Take any other field. A monk experimenting with peas made a massive breakthrough in the science of inheritance. Genetic research now is more complex, subtle, technologically challenging, and incremental.”

    Hahahahaha too perfect, previously in this tread I already wrote about Mendel and how this is a common misconception about him, that appears in every biology textbook you’ve obviously ever read. And you went and REPEATED IT!

    theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-fragility-of-truth/#comment-349654

    (Echo): The institutions of the early 1900’s were much less interconnected than our world today, it’s possible that Einstein’s revelations could have been made much earlier by someone else if the right five or six papers, plus tensor calculus knowledge, got into the hands of one of his predecessors. Mendel’s work is now found in most biology textbooks and described as the birth of genetics, but it had to be essentially rediscovered well after his death and it’s historically inaccurate to describe his work in that way. It only looks that way in retrospect but in reality he worked in obscurity and independently. Pop science is filled with many such misconceptions.

    Please check out the history of genetics, especially this contributions of this “monk.” Mendel’s work was done is isolation and forgotten, he didn’t have any actual impact on “the science of inheritance,” because no one read his work in time and they had to rediscover it all again on their own. The history of the science of inheritance and Mendel’s work is disconnected. It’s anachronistic and incorrect to describe it your way, but it fits into the mythical scientism you like to promote as a skeptic. Once again, one of the leaders of the skeptical movement demonstrates his ignorance of the history of science and promotes a false narrative.

    If you want to know why I’m not a skeptic this is exactly why, you ignore everything people like me have to say, to then walk into pitfalls that you were warned about by us days ago. This demonstrates you don’t actually pay attention to what people say. It’s intellectually dishonest to write a reply to someone without actually knowing what they wrote. This is how you ended up in the situation with the Mendel example, or claiming I made a false comparison with the LHC when you obviously missed the times I mentioned that LIGO took a century to confirm something Einstein first described. The worst part is the members of your community are even lazier and more intellectually dishonest than you, and they think it’s a glorious victory what you wrote. You are literally the things you hate about the world. Go read my thoughts on Mendel and the history of science which I wrote literally days ago. Watch how you walked into something I already previous explained. Google Mendel and how his work had no impact on the people who actually laid the foundation for genetics.

  126. Echoon 17 Jul 2017 at 3:16 pm

    In the history of science, Mendel and Einstein’s work are exceptions, they are not indicative of the trends that best describe how science has progressed. The overarching theme has always been slow incremental steps. When you simplify the history and claim Einstein just plucked “the low-hanging fruit,” you are essentially insulting everyone who put all the incremental pieces in place.

    Everyone who ran the experiments whose results he needed, everyone that literally invented the math he used, or wrote the papers Einstein needed to have read before seeing the connections. The time periods in physics before and after Einstein show a slow incremental process. Sure there are exceptions to trends, but your narrative is false and very self-serving. It helps you cope with your general dissatisfaction with how things have progressed. You are old and you grew up in a culture that expected nano-machines, flying cars and room temperature super conductors.

    It’s all a matter of perspective, either you can choose to ignore that the actual history of genetics is essentially a very slow incremental process, or you can falsely believe that Mendel accomplished breakthroughs in a field that, in reality, was completely unaware of his existence and his work. You can choose to dwell that everyone was a polymath back in the day, or you can ask yourself how the knowledge in the head of the average college grad would be seen by people just a few centuries ago.

    If you traveled back in time to 1905, you would be pretty dissatisfied with the pace of scientific advancement, when did we have the first practical everyday applications for Einstein’s early work? Do you think he felt overwhelmed with the pace of technological progress being made on his theories? I think he wanted much more than what he saw.

  127. Bob.Newmanon 17 Jul 2017 at 3:22 pm

    I’m going to confess up front that I did not and will not read all of Echo’s latest diatribe. On the claim that Mendel’s work lacked impact I will provide an excerpt from Wikipedia which seems to assert that the rediscovers of Medel’s work acknowledge his contributions and would possibly have not been able to interpret their own results without Medel’s prior activities:

    “By 1900, research aimed at finding a successful theory of discontinuous inheritance rather than blending inheritance led to independent duplication of his work by Hugo de Vries and Carl Correns, and the rediscovery of Mendel’s writings and laws. Both acknowledged Mendel’s priority, and it is thought probable that de Vries did not understand the results he had found until after reading Mendel.”

    Eh, but what does Wikipedia know? This is just a sourced, relatively uncontroversial claim rather than a vacuous assertion by a verbose commentator. /s

  128. chikoppion 17 Jul 2017 at 3:35 pm

    [Echo] If you happen to believe in climate change, then thats a political position in the current political environment. That’s an unquestionable statement, which I’m getting sick of defending like some idiot screaming into the void. If you disagree, then honestly take a break, step out of the echo chamber, go and talk to an average person, read some newspaper articles, turn on the tv. I’m getting tired of this vapid sophistry where you attempt to use all your talents to nitpick and groupthink your way out of this one. The same is true for the political goals I outlined that your movement has, with which you agree, it matters not how you arrived at these goals, just that they are currently political goals, they will be seen that way by everyone and in order to accomplish them you have to use the tools of political discourse and the mechanisms of government.

    Yes. To the extent that humans are social creatures, and society and politics are intertwined, all movements and all people are political.

    If I were part of a movement with the purpose of raising awareness of minority authors, that movement would be political in the sense that members would (presumably) vocally oppose trade practices that disadvantage or marginalize those authors.

    The tools of discourse are themselves the subject for the skeptic movement. Label that how you like.

  129. chikoppion 17 Jul 2017 at 3:49 pm

    @Echo

    It’s also worth pointing out that despite your certainty that the skeptical movement is pointless and effectual, you are here having a discussion about epistemology.

  130. Echoon 17 Jul 2017 at 3:49 pm

    @Bob.Newman: If you read the full page and understand the history of genetics you see that Mendel’s work is disconnected. It’s only after various small incremental steps taken by other researchers did people even understand it’s relevance. This doesn’t disprove anything I wrote it only confirms it. What you don’t understand here is that Mendel’s work was not contemporaneous, describing his contributions as a scientific breakthrough on the level of Einstein’s work is laughable. Also in the last 30 years there have been more massive breakthroughs in genetics than in all of the preceding history, so I don’t really understand where this idea of the slow incremental pace of science today comes from. Literally no living geneticist would describe their field in that way.

    I love how in Novella’s newest article he describes mansplaining as overused. Funny, I see a lot of condescending men here, telling what I already know, while displaying remarkable degrees of their own ignorance.

    Not only do I comprehend the details of the history of genetics in more depth than all of you combined, I described that this is a common misconception about Mendel, days ago. But please don’t let me stop you, continue mansplaining your way through it with nothing but wikipedia snippet and personal opinions to guide your way.

  131. Echoon 17 Jul 2017 at 4:02 pm

    @chikoppi: I have to strongly disagree with your newest comments, all you are doing is using your intellectual talents and taking my thoughts to the most logical extremes. That’s unfair and fallacious reasoning. I never argued that everyone and everything is political, and I disagree with you pushing everything to the ideological limits like that. I would never stand behind such a reduction to absurdity like that. I demonstrated that as a social group, skeptics have goals, like promoting awareness of climate change which they all mostly think is “true.” This is a political position in our current political environment, therefore if as a group you are informing yourselves about this, mobilizing action, writing persuading arguments, or engaging in activism and outreach, you are behaving exactly like a political movement. You are literally arguing against the dictionary at this point. Even your lord and savior has essentially confirmed that yes it is political.

    (Novella): But of course, as I have said many times, I and others do try to promote science-based regulations, to protect the institutions of science and science education, and to keep politics and religion from interfering with science. Yes, those are political goals, but they all relate to the promotion of science and critical thinking in our society.

    Pursuing political goals, is by definition the purpose and function of political movements. So you might not be just a political movement, you might be all those lovely things you think you are, but you are also a political movement.

  132. Bob.Newmanon 17 Jul 2017 at 4:07 pm

    I have no doubt that you believe you “…comprehend the details of the history of genetics in more depth than all of you combined….” I meant to merely point out that you may have missed a citation on your descriptions of Mendel’s contributions. As from my perspective it appears that you are making an assertion without a proper source. I fully accept that I know nothing about Mendel.

    Beyond that I will cation you to check your privileged. Despite my pseudonym I can assure you that you know nothing of who I am and find your comments borderline sexist.

  133. Steve Crosson 17 Jul 2017 at 4:15 pm

    Echo,

    You’re either misunderstanding or deliberately ignoring the question I’m asking. Forget about your straw man version of skepticism. The essence of skepticism is nothing more or less than the promotion of good critical thinking skills.

    If you don’t believe that good critical thinking and evidence based decision making are the best tools to use when deciding on a future course of action, then what do you believe?

    As I said, and still stand by, skepticism is nothing more or less than a tool that seems to be effective in making decisions that comport with reality.

    Whether those decisions can be interpreted politically is completely irrelevant to whether or not the tool is effective. It is certainly true that some political positions may be arrived at by careful critical analysis. That does not mean that skepticism is a political movement. It does mean that the particular political position is more grounded in reality. Nothing more, nothing less.

    All of your examples are red herrings. A political prisoner is no more likely to be imprisoned or executed if he came to his beliefs by careful critical analysis than if he came to his beliefs by simply being indoctrinated by his parents. The same thing is true for political parties or anything else. A liberal democrat could be that way because her parents were, or she could have carefully reasoned her way into that position.

    Actual skepticism, i.e. critical thinking and evidence based decision making is inherently apolitical — unless you consider reality to be political. Unquestionably, some political positions are more easily defensible based on logic and evidence, but that does not mean that logic is a political movement.

    To repeat the question I’ve been asking for some time now without an answer:

    If you don’t believe that good critical thinking and evidence based decision making are the best tools to use when deciding on a future course of action, then what do you believe?

  134. Echoon 17 Jul 2017 at 4:23 pm

    @Bob.Newman: LOL, mansplainer decrying sexism! Too funny.

    On References:

    https://www.genome.gov/25520238/online-education-kit-1900-rediscovery-of-mendels-work/

    DeVries, Correns and Tschermak independently rediscover Mendel’s work. Three botanists – Hugo DeVries, Carl Correns and Erich von Tschermak – independently rediscovered Mendel’s work in the same year, a generation after Mendel published his papers. They helped expand awareness of the Mendelian laws of inheritance in the scientific world.

    The three Europeans, unknown to each other, were working on different plant hybrids when they each worked out the laws of inheritance. When they reviewed the literature before publishing their own results, they were startled to find Mendel’s old papers spelling out those laws in detail. Each man announced Mendel’s discoveries and his own work as confirmation of them.

    By 1900, cells and chromosomes were sufficiently understood to give Mendel’s abstract ideas a physical context.

    Roberts, H. F. Plant Hybridization before Mendel. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1929.

    Mendel’s work did not have an impact or anything prior to those people having rediscovered it all on their own. It was simply something they could point to as reference AFTER they had already re done it all. I only say that I know more about this topic because no one here, including Novella, has said anything I didn’t already explain was a common misconception about Mendel days ago. You all know the same exact things about Mendel, and that stuff is incorrect.

  135. Steven Novellaon 17 Jul 2017 at 4:24 pm

    Echo,

    I don’t always have time to read through 100 comments. I should have noted I was jumping in at the end, but that does not justify your crowing. People have lives outside of blog comments.

    So, going back, I did some deeper exploration of Einstein’s papers and I did misremember some of the details so I made a correction. I corrected the passage to:

    “We will probably never again see a situation where someone like Einstein publishes four papers in one year, laying out the foundations of special relativity and quantum theory, while earning his PhD and eventually a Nobel Prize, and all in his spare time. ”

    I think that is even stronger.

    But – the bigger point – you continue to misrepresent and misunderstand my point. You are focusing on irrelevant details and missing the big picture. The point with Mendel is the same. None of what you wrote matters, it is all a non-sequitur. The point is, Mendel was able to make a significant discovery about inheritance doing his own simple experiments. The fact that his work was lost and rediscovered is completely irrelevant to my point, and not even relevant to what I said.

    I also did not compare his work to Einsteins. You really reveal your negative bias in saying that.

    Your LIGO point is also not valid – you are treating Einstein’s entire career as if it is one thing or one point in time. General relativity came later, was far more complex and difficult than special relativity, and the fact that it made predictions that took a long time to confirm is compatible with my basic premise. Plus, Einstein came at a time when physics was already quite advanced, not at the very beginning of the field. Again – you are completely mixing up what you need to in order to make your strained point, which only seems to be a contrarian.

    Scientific progress in generally incremental, and a team effort, and always builds on what came before. Sure. I have pointed that out myself countless times. But at the early stages of a science the questions are more fundamental. As a science progresses the questions get more detailed, and perhaps more difficult, and the increments get smaller.

    You ignore all the examples I gave to nitpick on what you think are errors.

    BTW – It is not appropriate to tout your experience while remaining anonymous. Take your pick.

    The point

  136. Echoon 17 Jul 2017 at 4:32 pm

    @Steve Cross:

    If you don’t believe that good critical thinking and evidence based decision making are the best tools to use when deciding on a future course of action, then what do you believe?

    That’s a leading, loaded and highly deceptive question!

    Please go ahead and show me where exactly I said that I “don’t believe that good critical thinking and evidence based decision making are the best tools to use when deciding on a future course of action..”

    I have never once made such a claim, you keep doing this because you clearly don’t actually read what people say. You know how I know that? Because I already described how your leading questions are total BS, and here you go once again with another BS question.

    (Echo): Guess what Steve Cross, I don’t have to respond to your questions in the exact way you want. Have you ever heard of a leading, or a loaded question?

    When you inappropriately frame everything I have to say into a simplistic summary like: so you think skepticism sucks and we are doing it wrong, then please show us what the best way is, if you can’t then shut up. That isn’t fair or reasonable. When you ask me what the most “effective” path is, or what “truth” is, you are missing the point and only seeing things from your very limited perspective that is mostly just aggressive scientism.

    I never claimed that I knew the most effective path to solving problems. You pressed me on fake news, I gave you MULTIPLE solutions, across different fields, like financial, legal suits, legislation, changing corporate policies. Every single reply of yours was essentially: tell me what the most “effective” path is, tell me what the “truth” is and how we determine it.

    Skepticism won’t tell you what the best option is to tackle the problem of fake news. Sorry, I also love how you ignore my arguments showing that skepticism is not the most effective strategy to get the launch codes. And that Clinton made many attempts to associate herself with critical thinking and science, but still lost.

    My problem has never been with critical thinking. Skepticism is not critical thinking. My problem is with your movement in general and the issues you have with “truth” and scientism.

  137. Steven Novellaon 17 Jul 2017 at 4:35 pm

    ECHO – BTW – I already knew all of that about Mendel. It was not relevant to my point. You are just harping on what you know and pretending it’s relevant to the discussion when it isn’t.

  138. Steve Crosson 17 Jul 2017 at 4:42 pm

    Echo,

    My problem has never been with critical thinking. Skepticism is not critical thinking. My problem is with your movement in general and the issues you have with “truth” and scientism.

    Your problem is with your straw man version of skepticism.

    Most of the rest of us feel that the essential point, indeed the only point of skepticism is the promotion of critical thinking.

    Where it leads to is a separate issue.

  139. Echoon 17 Jul 2017 at 4:55 pm

    @Steven Novella: You are still making it seem like Einstein wasn’t a highly dedicated, educated, hard working and obsessively focused person. You are also making no mention of all the incremental steps others took which he greately benefited from. It is still a mythical hero narrative you are promoting like most science communicators today.

    Your new description still has mistakes in it. He published at least 5 papers in that year, and his PhD was specifically awarded for his work on “A New Determination of Molecular Dimensions,” which is not one those 4 revolutionary papers you mentioned. So it is still incorrect to have it written the way you have it. This is all on the wiki-page, and biographies on official science websites.

    When you wrote about Mendel, you specifically described it as a “massive breakthrough in the science of inheritance,” that is not accurate. Mendel’s work was not part of the mainstream genetic research and it was only after people in the mainstream field made their “breakthroughs” that his work was understood, this makes him an isolated person that provided a reference to scientists not a revolutionary. I also apologize if it was misleading what I wrote about you comparing him to Einstein, I only mean that you just finished talking about how Einstein changed everything and then you said lets look at any other field and wrote about Mendel. I mean it’s only logical to conclude that you were making a comparison between the two people.

    We have ideological differences, you promote a narrative where science was easy back in the day and where Einstein was plucking low hanging fruit. I don’t buy into that. I think that if you check out genetics in the last 30 years you don’t see a slow pace at all. Also the fields you love to talk about like material science, medical imaging and others, have seen amazing breakthroughs quite recently. Yes we still have unanswered problems in physics, that doesn’t mean all of science fits your narrative.

  140. Echoon 17 Jul 2017 at 5:11 pm

    @Steve Cross: “Most of the rest of us feel that the essential point, indeed the only point of skepticism is the promotion of critical thinking.”

    Wrong. You are now strawmanning the goals of the organization that you claim to be a member of. For example the SGU has it’s slogans and stated goals:

    … dedicated to promoting critical thinking, reason, and the public understanding of science through online and other media.

    Other skeptical things have different goals. Critical thinking is not all that skepticism is, that is certainly not the “only point” of the SGU, this blog, other skeptical organizations, podcasts and blogs. That’s not the point of NECSS. Skeptics don’t just want people to think critically they also want people to be scientifically literate and understand many other things about the world. There is no point in having perfect reasoning skills if you don’t understand science, pseudoscience, the basic nature of politics etc.

    So I previously described you as presenting simplified and flawed summaries of things, do you think that your newest comment challenges that description or reaffirms it?

  141. Steve Crosson 17 Jul 2017 at 5:12 pm

    Echo/EmbraceWisdom/Sophie/cozying,

    Each time you return with a new nym, I keep hoping that you will have turned over a new leaf. You’re obviously bright and desperately want to be a good critical thinker, but you keep failing miserably. No matter how politely or respectfully I or anyone else treats you, at the very first sign of any challenge, either real or imagined, you immediately become defensive, condescending and recalcitrant. You create outrageous straw man versions of every opposing position and then declare victory over something your opponent has never even said.

    This has been a consistent pattern since your “cozying” persona. You are convinced that you are an excellent critical thinker, yet you still crave external validation of your self assessment. Back then, you freely and proudly adopted the “skeptic” label but could never understand why others did not uncritically accept your every utterance. But you couldn’t even tolerate slight disagreements about subjective opinions — remember shocked vs. surprised?

    Since that inauspicious beginning, instead of simply getting out of the hole and moving on, you just keep digging deeper and deeper. No matter what one of your perceived enemies happens to say, you feel compelled to support the opposite side. And wind up grasping at weaker and weaker straws in transparent attempts to discredit your imagined antagonists. You, of all people, should recognize ad hominem attacks as logical fallacies — you’ve certainly accused others of it often enough.

    I’m not going to waste everyone’s time (or at least not more than I already have 😉 ) by cataloging every step of the process. It’s transparently obvious to regular readers. Suffice to say, it’s a fox and the grapes kind of thing. When team skeptic failed to recognize your obvious (to you at least) talent, you became upset and no longer wanted to be on that team anyway.

    Suddenly, skeptics are incompetent and can’t do anything right. I mean, they must be, right? Look at how unfairly you’ve been treated.

    That’s because you completely fail to practice the one critical element that every legitimately good skeptic/critical thinker must have, i.e. a recognition of your own fallibility. In other words, a good skeptic realizes and accepts that they could be wrong at any time about any thing, and acts accordingly. Which you seem to be completely unable to do.

    And I’m not saying you’re wrong about everything, or even very many things. It’s just that you can never be wrong about anything no matter how trivial or insignificant. And you insist minuscule, extremely pedantic bits of trivia are somehow supremely important — as if any error no matter how small (or even real) somehow validates your own belief in your infallibility.

    And since I already know that you’re going to say that I’m a bad skeptic by my own definition, I’ll just say this. Obviously, some things are more certain than others, and it is possible that four (or more if I missed some) separate individuals exist that have identical argumentation styles, verbal quirks, rude behavior, and insecurities — who just coincidentally happened to consecutively engage an obscure website which “hardly no one visits”. In addition, at least 3 of the 4 self identify as female — the gender which is sorely under-represented under normal circumstances. All of which seems profoundly unlikely, so for now, I’m just going to call this my General Theory of Cozytivity and consider it to be provisionally true.

  142. Echoon 17 Jul 2017 at 5:27 pm

    @Steve Cross: LOL! What is this nonsense now? Oh don’t let me stop you, please go on.. I would really love to find out where this rabbit hole leads.

    Also when you finish with that, feel free to reply to your repeated flawed summaries of everything I’ve said back in this version of reality. Not just my words though, you also don’t know anything about the nature of the skeptical movement. Your version of the events in this reality are also flawed.

    theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-fragility-of-truth/#comment-350192
    theskepticsguide.org/about
    necss.org/about-necss/

  143. Steve Crosson 17 Jul 2017 at 6:11 pm

    cozying,

    No thanks. I’ll just wait a month or two until you come back with a new nym. You’re much more pleasant to deal with when you are still pretending to engage honestly. Who knows, by then you may have matured a little and it might be true.

    I will say this about my definition of skepticism. In the context of this thread on this blog, my definition is pretty reasonable. chikoppi gave a virtually identical definition a bit earlier. No one has ever said anything about the goals of either the SGU or NECSS — until you decided to create yet another of your trade mark straw man fabrications.

  144. Echoon 17 Jul 2017 at 6:36 pm

    @Steve Cross: I can’t help myself from getting lost in this lovely story you wrote. I don’t really understand how this fall-from-grace, lucifer style tale, fits my behavior. Did you read the first comment I wrote? I have expressed nothing but irrelevant hatred since day one. No one needed to challenge me, almost every single thing I wrote fits this style of being disgusted with your community and expressing it through, declarations of hatred and insults before anyone even challenges me. Nothing in what I wrote shows any kind of need for acknowledgement, quite the opposite. I’m not a skeptic, don’t accept me into your club.

    (Steve Cross): I will say this about my definition of skepticism. In the context of this thread on this blog, my definition is pretty reasonable. chikoppi gave a virtually identical definition a bit earlier. No one has ever said anything about the goals of either the SGU or NECSS — until you decided to create yet another of your trade mark straw man fabrications.

    lol, I love this. So you and your troll bud chikoppi writing comments on a blog, are not the people who decide what skepticism means, what it’s goals and direction should be. The people who actually matter in your community, the leaders, the people who host the podcasts, give interviews, debate, write the blogs, and set up the conferences, those are the people who help define what the skeptical movement is all about, not you.

    I love this so much because Novella himself has written in this thread that he does have political goals and he doesn’t describe the “only point” of skepticism as being “promoting critical thinking.” This means that it is you who doesn’t know what’s going on. Even chikoppi has confirmed that skeptics do work on political goals. You obviously think you are much smarter than you actually are if you think its suitable to make an appeal to the opinions of random commenters, over the descriptions by the actual author of this blog or the about sections on official websites of the skeptical movement. You are not smarter than me, sorry, I know your description of skepticism is weak in comparison to official sources. Try working a little harder on your arguments next time.

  145. bachfiendon 17 Jul 2017 at 7:19 pm

    I’m glad I stopped commenting on this train wreck of a thread a few days ago. I am finding it a little rich that the Internet troll Echo is labelling chikoppi, who’s entirely reasonable (even if I don’t agree with everything he writes), as an Internet troll.

  146. hardnoseon 17 Jul 2017 at 7:27 pm

    “Do you think we can confidently conclude that DNA is the molecule of inheritance, that genes exist, and life evolves, that there is plate tectonics, that electromagnetic waves exist, that germs exist and can cause infectious disease, that diseases exist, etc. Is there no limit to your denial of scientific knowledge? That is ideology.”

    My point was — YOU THINK THOSE ARE THE ONLY BROAD QUESTIONS. You have no imagination, no sense of human limitations.

    You don’t know that YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW.

  147. Echoon 17 Jul 2017 at 8:22 pm

    @Bachfiend: Well if you think it was reasonable for chikoppi to take my thoughts on my personal struggle with an illness, and spin them into a pro-Trump straw man, then great I guess he isn’t a troll.

    @hardnose: Skeptics are proponents of scientism. They have no god but science. There “truths” are biased perspectives and false narratives that mythologize the nature of science. Just imagine if tomorrow we have experimental evidence of higher dimensions, alternate universes or aliens. Will Skeptics still claim that all the broad questions have been answered? All we need is one major discovery to completely revolutionize our understanding in all areas, and make all human knowledge acquired this far look like a “tiny” puzzle piece. Scientism limits our understanding of the world and collapses down the number of possibilities out there, it also insults our human experience, historical and cultural knowledge.

    What good is art to a skeptic? Do you think if they were in power they would care about funding the arts? Do you think their kids have art history degrees or study music? Theirs is the path to scientific dictatorship, technocracy, enslavement, a brave new world. They already think it is acceptable to mock the majority of the people around them, they are so elitist that they can’t see how privileged they are. They think its okay to call everyone who gets a reki massage or goes to chiropractor a “flat-earther.”

    They are detached people, they act like new age beliefs aren’t deeply imbued into our modern culture. They have not one a SINGLE MAJOR BATTLE in their entire history, they can’t get an elected representative, accomplish the smallest of goals, but they see themselves as intellectual gods.

  148. Pete Aon 17 Jul 2017 at 8:25 pm

    [Echo] Some of Einstein’s ideas took much longer to confirm, the longest of which has to be gravitational waves by LIGO, which took a century. Which I’ve only mentioned like… 4.. times?…

    No, you have mentioned “gravitational waves” three times. If you actually understood the importance of Einstein’s prediction of them, and their recent detections, then you would not have referred to them initially as “gravity waves”.

    You wrote to chikoppi the following:

    Indirect quotations or paraphrases are never to be expressed inside quotation marks, single or otherwise. It’s not even just that one error you made, you also in that same sentence, preceding your dishonest quote, wrote that I “specifically” said something, which I did not say!

    You need to let go of this feeling of superiority that you must clearly have and accept the facts. Single quotes are not used for paraphrases or indirect quotes, your defense of this objectively incorrect/dishonest behavior just shows the lengths you will go to double down, and fight to the bitter end.

    This isn’t honorable, this is exactly the problem with you Skeptics. Even when shown clear evidence that you messed up, you still don’t shut up. If you can’t recognize an error this small, and learn from it, how are we ever supposed to have a serious discussion on more complex topics?

    This is such a basic, easily verifiable claim, anyone can just google quotation rules and guidelines and see how they should treat indirect quotes and paraphrases.

    Now, apply that to your yourself. When I highlighted your blunder of referring to “gravitational waves” as “gravity waves” you replied:

    @Pete A: **Claps** Congratulations, I’m not a physicist. Gravitational* waves I should have said. I would like to mention that this same error, I made, is in multiple news articles, and in fact when you google: “gravity waves” you get the wikipedia page for “gravitational waves,” and results for LIGO.

    If you see tiny mistakes like that in my writing why not the gaping holes in Novella’s published articles? Why don’t you apply that specialized knowledge, and tackle this claim: “We will probably never again see a situation where someone like Einstein publishes a one-page paper that earns him a PhD and a Nobel prize, changing our fundamental view of the nature of physics.”
    Do you still not see why people hate Skeptics? This is exactly why, you apply your talents to everything and everyone else but yourselves. This is your religion.

    When it comes to important issues, such as your crippling migraines, which do you think is more important to learn and to insist upon: the correct application of quoting rules; or the correct application of well-known scientific terms [rhetorical question].

    Anyone can google the ‘well-known cures’ for migraines; e.g., using the search search words: migraine meditation nutrition. You wrote previously: “The only thing that has ever even felt like it’s made a difference is a diet recommended to me by an alternative nutritionist type, and meditation.”

    What do you mean by “an alternative nutritionist type” — other than making it abundantly clear that you have not yet learnt the vital difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist. As Dara Ó Briain highlighted: A dietitian is to a nutritionist as a dentist is to a toothiologist; a dietitian is a protected title whereas anyone can call themselves a nutritionist.

    When my migraines ramped-up to the level of being incapacitating — unable to see anything other than its nauseating aura for a few hours during each episode — I listened carefully to my GP, whom explained that the tests hadn’t identified a cause; that there isn’t a known cure; and that my condition would do one of three things: get worse; stay the same; or get better.

    Having been a reader of Dr Novella’s articles, I was able to fully understand and accept the honesty of my GP — rather than being disgruntled by it then wasting my time and money on the multi-billion dollar alternative-to-medicine empire. Did I manage to gain a meaningful sense of control over my condition? Yes! By deciding to stop having further appointments with the various sCAM practitioners who were convinced / trying to convince me that they could eventually cure my migraines. Thanks to Dr. Novella, and some of the commentators on this blog, I have properly learnt the practical meaning of the scientific term “regression to the mean”.

    For your information, Echo: There are very few situations in which strictly adhering to quoting rules rise to the level of crucial importance. Crucially important situations include such things as database operations and issuing administrative commands to computer operating systems. Tiny mistakes can, and frequently do, render a computer inoperable, e.g., [I’ve prefixed the command with a “#” to prevent it from executing, just in case anyone is daft enough to try it on a Unix-based machine]:
    #rm -Rf ~/My Documents Library

    Echo, your knowledge of the English language seems to be limited to that which generally applies to only US English.

  149. Pete Aon 17 Jul 2017 at 8:56 pm

    [hardnose] You don’t know that YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW.

    It is you who repeatedly flaunts that which you do not yet know; and despite having had your wilful ignorance repatedely pointed out to you over the years, you still refuse to admit that it is you who is being the ignoramous.

    Here is one of my replies to reply to you, on 29 Apr 2015 at 7:35 am:

    Hardnose, I’m trying to understand both the point that you are making and your reason(s) for making it. I shall use reflective listening and I sincerely hope that you will reply to show me what I have misunderstood.

    My summary of what you’ve been saying is:
    1. There are known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns;

    2. As science progresses in its investigation of the known unknowns, some of the unknown unknowns are discovered and become new known unknowns;

    3. Although the number of items in our pool of knowledge (the known knowns) is ever increasing, the number of known unknowns items is also increasing;

    4. In other words, science is the continual process of surfacing hidden items in the pool of unknown unknowns, moving them through the stream of known unknowns, then filtering the suitably processed items in our pool of knowledge.

    If, in effect, that is what you’ve been saying, and you are claiming that the old trickling stream of known unknowns has grown into a large river, then I would agree with you. I think this is a reasonable expectation, and a good indicator, of scientific progress.

    Is this an appropriate reflection of what you’ve said, or have I misunderstood your message?

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/grab-your-torch-and-pitchforks/#comment-97936

  150. bachfiendon 17 Jul 2017 at 9:29 pm

    Echo,

    ‘Skeptics are proponents of scientism. They have no god but science. There (sic) truths are biased perspectives and false narratives that mythologized the nature of science. Just imagine if tomorrow we have experimental evidence of higher dimensions, alternate universes or aliens. Will Skeptics still claim that all the broad questions have been answered? All we need is one major discovery to completely revolutionise our understanding in all areas, and make all human knowledge acquired this far look like a “tiny” puzzle piece. Scientism limits our understanding of the world and collapses down the number of possibilities out there, it also insults our human experience, historical and cultural knowledge,’

    Very much a straw man argument. More than three space dimensions is very much a part of science. Scientists have suggested that gravity waves could be useful in detecting extra dimensions. Alternate universes is part of one science version of the Multiverse. If experimental evidence of a Multiverse is ever made (and it’s been suggested by scientists that it may come from studying the CMB in greater detail), then that wouldn’t bother skeptics. And aliens? It would be of more concern to non-skeptics that they exist.

    All the broad questions haven’t been answered. We still don’t know what the nature of 95% of the universe is (dark matter and dark energy).

    Science doesn’t include everything that’s worth knowing, but science has the only methods capable of determining the nature of reality. Looking for evidence and hypothesis testing (history as a means of knowing in this sense is also a science).

    Perhaps you might suggest an example of ‘one major discovery’ that will revolutionise our understanding of reality? The only thing I can think of would be ‘proof’ that a god exists (science doesn’t deal with proofs, just theories, and how well supported they’re supported by evidence).

    ‘What good is art to a skeptic? Do you think if they were in power they would care about funding the arts?’ Another straw man argument. I’m a skeptic, and I support the arts. I’m a subscriber to the local orchestra. I visit art museums. When I travel, I look to attend concerts and operas. In many respects, I regard myself as being ‘elitist’ in my support of the arts.

  151. BillyJoe7on 18 Jul 2017 at 12:58 am

    Pete,

    I remember you argument almost word for word and the troll’s utter failure to reply.
    I would go further though:

    “You don’t know that YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW”

    In respect to what affects our everyday lives, there are no unknown unknowns.
    In respect to what affects our everyday lives there are only known knowns and known unknowns
    We know what the limits of our knowledge are regarding particles and forces (ranges and strengths) and we know that any particles and forces beyond those limits cannot have any effect on our everyday lives (because they are either too weak or too short range).

    Now wait for some ignorant cliched dismissal by the troll who steadfastly refuses to read the references I have previous supplied (if indeed he is capable of understanding them).

  152. Echoon 18 Jul 2017 at 1:35 am

    @Pete A: Holy smokes. First of all, your selected quotation of me doesn’t prove or support your claims. All it shows is that I took your correction. You pointed out that I made an error, I took it and never used “gravity waves” since in referring to LIGO.

    (Pete A): No, you have mentioned “gravitational waves” three times. If you actually understood the importance of Einstein’s prediction of them, and their recent detections, then you would not have referred to them initially as “gravity waves”.

    So according to you and this logic, anyone who makes that mistake knows nothing. Many science communicators, journalists, podcasters, and others made this same mistake at that time. And when you google “gravity waves” the results are for LIGO, and the page for gravitational waves. But according to you, all of us are so unforgivable. The hammer of the skeptical gods has fallen on us, we are banished as exiles. Now every time I say something, you can remember this and bring it up. I know where you learned this, Novella does the same thing, people who disagree with him are all flat-earthers, just because any perceived slight against him and his beliefs are as foolish as thinking the earth is flat.

    This idea that those who make innocent mistakes are irredeemable is a central element in your religion. Mistakes like:
    -growing up in a culture obsessed with new age ideas, where it’s widely accepted to go to someone like chiropractor, and therefore going to them for help
    -not being lucky enough to have an elite education
    -buying woo products, because you don’t have specialized knowledge of pseudoscience
    -being repulsed by mansplaining atheist skeptics and being attracted to more mainstream and tolerant voices

    These are punishable offenses in your cult of scientism. I dared to say “gravity waves” instead of “gravitational waves.” I dared to have a chronic illness that’s currently incurable, therefore I was attracted to new age ideas, meditation and dieting. Sentence me to death. Put my head on the chopping block, I clearly deserve it for being such a flawed person.

    Regarding your thoughts on the correct use of quotation marks, and your unrelated thoughts on database administration… give me a break. It’s not a minor pedantic detail like what you love to do, Chikoppi didn’t just simply misquote me, he claimed I “specifically” said something which I never said. He defended it as okay, because he used single quotation marks, but there is no reference that says this okay. In fact they all say that indirect quotes or paraphrases should never be expressed with quotation marks of any kind.

    AND now check out Bachfiend’s post where he directly quotes me using, single quotation marks. Isn’t that just lovely? Would you look at that, I guess single quotation marks do indicate direct quotes and not, indirect quotes and paraphrases. If they do work for paraphrasing, then WTF is bachfiend talking about? Are those indirect quotes/paraphrases or are those my actual words? … hmm. I don’t know, guess I’ll have to follow those official style manuals and my academic training in order to solve this conundrum. I’ll have to ignore the random comments of skeptics on the internet who are clearly just scrambling for anything to cover their ineptitude.

    P.S. digging up hardnose’s transgressions from a couple years ago, is more of this insane injustice collecting behavior. I would describe it as borderline psychotic. You know, some people who commit violent acts are famous for their obsessive ability to remember anything anyone has ever done that has offended them. You skeptics sure like to ruminate on previously suffered wounds and never let anyone forget the past huh?

    Yes instead of replying to hardnose’s pretty reasonable point that skeptics are fanatically obsessed with science, to the point they just naturally assume all broad questions about everything have been answered, you will much prefer to dig up the past. (This is also a point with with which bachfiend did not agree with Novella on, so there is hope!)

    I mean, look I’m not surprised, you are obviously on the spectrum, you think that a conversation about programming languages relates to how someone clearly fabricated a quote in an comment online. It’s not something neither you nor he can debate, there is no source that will tell you it’s okay to use single quotes for paraphrasing, and even if you found such a dubious source you still have to tackle the hurdle where he wrote that I “specifically” said something, right before the quote appears, in the same sentence. So good luck with that. You can’t tackle this problem either, so you bring up my past transgressions and unrelated stories about how you know programming, just like how he spammed me with sources on other topics but couldn’t find a single source to defend his fabricated quote. Total phonies the lot of you.

    On cue a fellow skeptic billy shows up in the thread and supports your obsessive wound collecting. He sees no problem with attacking something someone wrote a COUPLE YEARS AGO, instead of addressing their concerns in the present, how lovely.

    @bachfiend: I like you a lot.

    (Novella): That is how science advances, you answer broad questions first, then you dig for progressively greater detail, nuance, and complexity.

    (bachfiend):All the broad questions haven’t been answered. We still don’t know what the nature of 95% of the universe is (dark matter and dark energy).

    When Novella was pressed by hardnose on that point, he responded with more confidence on all the things science has shown, he didn’t back down from the claim at all.

    Novella is wrong, his narrative of “broad questions” being answered first, and then nuance being figured out later doesn’t fit many other fields. Quite often tiny details lead to newer broader questions. The currently unsolved problems in physics today, like the ones you mentioned, are not just tiny details. They are also not things that were tackled by the earlier theorists/researchers, some of these problems are things they were completely unaware of. Not a single person just 50 years ago would have imagined the prominence of string theory in physics today. And that’s one hell of a “broad” answer to a lot of questions if it ever pans out.

    His other narratives like how science progress so slow now, are only true in some fields like in physics it is true that there hasn’t been revolutionary changes in a while, but the same is not true in other fields Novella loves to talk about so much like material science, medical imaging or genetics. All of which have seen many amazing breakthroughs in the last few decades.

    (bachfiend): Very much a straw man argument. More than three space dimensions is very much a part of science. Scientists have suggested that gravity waves could be useful in detecting extra dimensions. Alternate universes is part of one science version of the Multiverse. If experimental evidence of a Multiverse is ever made (and it’s been suggested by scientists that it may come from studying the CMB in greater detail), then that wouldn’t bother skeptics. And aliens? It would be of more concern to non-skeptics that they exist.

    Sorry, I have to call you on this. Having a theory that higher dimensions exist is not the same as experimental evidence. The evidence would mean applications which would mean technology, that would radically change everything and likely add more unsolved broader questions not less of them. With every great discovery or technology there is always fear, speculation and new theories.

    This is also why Mendel cannot be described as the father of genetics. Science is a group activity and requires replication. Novella’s description of Mendel as accomplishing breakthroughs in the study of inheritance ignores all of this. We don’t trust theories without evidence, and we don’t trust evidence without replication. Mendel couldn’t have possibly known if his work was indicative of some fundamental genetic information shared by all life, or some unique property of peas and other plants. And neither could you have known that if you were there with him running those experiments at the time, without the benefit of modern retrospection. Claiming Mendel accomplished breakthrough achievements is more scientism, believing in hero worship and mythical narratives.

    Alternatively, you are presupposing that experimental data confirms these theories. What if it doesn’t? Wouldn’t that be just as shocking as finding that the Higgs boson likely doesn’t actually exist? Wouldn’t that lead to more broad questions being drawn up? New theories being crafted?

    A pretty common skeptic’s wet dream I hear a lot about is A.I. leading to the singularity, now what if we had one of those. One that was real smart and could do lots of great science, and we let it run for years. Do you think that a hyper-intelligent A.I. would look at all of human knowledge and say: “yeah these dudes, they sure did answer all the broad questions, they were just missing the details,” …? I think not. I think it would laugh and look at us like ants if we dared to ask.

  153. Echoon 18 Jul 2017 at 2:07 am

    Open challenge to any skeptic,

    In the article above, Novella outlines the following:

    As a useful thought experiment, I have an open challenge to anyone to tell me one CAM modality that has been rejected by any CAM profession or institution because of evidence of lack of efficacy. It doesn’t exist. This is powerful evidence that they are unable or unwilling to demonstrate that a treatment does not work, which must mean that they are also unable to demonstrate that any treatment does work.

    The challenge is simple, apply this same thought experiment to the skeptical movement. Please show me which of your fellow skeptics you have disavowed, which rhetorical techniques have been abandoned for lack of efficacy, and which essential broad political goals have changed in the last 20 years. Please show me some valid critiques of your movement. I have read the one by a disgruntled NECSS speaker, that was essentially treated like gibberish by your community. So let me ask you, where are the critiques of your movement that you find acceptable, please show them to me. Have I written anything that is critical of this movement that you agree with?

  154. bachfiendon 18 Jul 2017 at 4:11 am

    Echo,

    I use single quotation marks and double quotation marks as equivalents. I’m not aware whether there’s a general style convention or even if it’s just an American practice to distinguish between the two. On my iPad single quotation marks are more convenient – the keyboard reverts to the alphabetical one automatically.

    Regardless. I regard it as very bad form to put something into quotation marks referring to something someone has said or written when it’s a paraphrasing or an interpretation – not a direct quotation.

    Your challenge is nonsensical. Skepticism isn’t a monolithic religion with a dogma. It’s a way of thinking, not accepting anything as being true unless there’s adequate evidence. I regularly disagree with other skeptics, that including Steve Novella regarding whether the broad questions have been answered. And I was just referring to the nature of dark matter and dark energy, not to the fact that genetic information is carried in DNA, etc.

    Organising skeptics to agree on everything or almost everything is as difficult as herding cats.

    Your claim that experimental proof that there are extra spatial dimensions will lead to applications and technology is doubtful. It will change our concept of what reality is – in the same way that we know that ordinary matter consists overwhelmingly of empty space, in the same way that atoms consist largely of empty space and hadrons (protons and neutrons) consist largely of empty space. And the three valence quarks composing each hadron accounts for only 2% of its mass, the remaining mass being composed of a host of virtual particles, which flash into and out of existence.

    Knowing that there is extra dimensions will be just as much practical use as knowing that matter is largely empty space and most of which is there is actually emphemeral.

  155. Pete Aon 18 Jul 2017 at 5:55 am

    Inverted commas/Quotation marks, Oxford Living Dictionaries:
    https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/punctuation/inverted-commas-quotation-marks

  156. bachfiendon 18 Jul 2017 at 6:05 am

    Pete A,

    Thanks. That’s generally the way I use quotation marks. This single versus double quotation marks is as I thought an American affectation, which I put in the same basket as their refusal to use the metric system, and even they can’t get the size of a gallon right.

  157. TheGorillaon 18 Jul 2017 at 6:12 am

    bachfiend,

    “Skepticism isn’t a monolithic religion with a dogma. It’s a way of thinking, not accepting anything as being true unless there’s adequate evidence. ”

    There’s no such thing as religion as practised (and religion IS practice) with a monolithic dogma either — even Catholics vary all over hte place, and they aren’t exactly shy about doctrine and tradition and ritual. I think it’s a bit of a dodge to say this because, while it is true that people in this community disagree with each other all the time (ie the comments section here!), there is 100% a collection of beliefs about epistemology and metaphysics that the Skeptic Community as such more or less shares. It’s not just accidental that you encounter more scientistic worldviews around here anymore than religious people are more likely to believe in spirits.

  158. Nidwinon 18 Jul 2017 at 6:42 am

    @BillyJoe

    “In respect to what affects our everyday lives there are only known knowns and known unknowns”

    I’ve no issues with known knowns (+ neutral or -) but how can something that’s a known unknown affect our everyday life?

    Just asking out of curiosity.

  159. Steven Novellaon 18 Jul 2017 at 7:04 am

    ECHO – you are simply mishcharacterizing my position. I never said that what Einstein did was easy, or in any way minimize his hard work, dedication, or brilliance. That is a straw man that you will not let go, for obvious reasons. And yet again, I have described the incremental and cooperative nature of science often.

    “Low hanging fruit” is relative, and that is all I am saying. Science has always been hard, and requires creative thinking and lots of work. My central point is that as science progresses the questions get deeper, and therefore take relatively more work in order to make smaller incremental advances. This is an obvious and non-controversial position. You have had to distort it into your silly straw man in order to criticize it.

    And you continue to be wrong about my reference to Mendel. His work was a breakthrough, even if it was ignored and only later rediscovered. That fact is irrelevant to my point. Do you think that someone like Mendel now, working in his garden, could make a similar discovery about genetics? Is that your position? If not, then you are agreeing with me.

    I also think it’s rich that you are trying to take a high horse about others admitting they were wrong, when you refuse to do so. You are not engaging in constructive criticism, you are just sniping.

    And regarding your challenge to skeptics, you have also not been paying attention. The link I gave above was to an all out fight between me and PZ Myers about the nature of skepticism. I have also had open disagreements with Massimo here on how we approach the GMO question. There are disagreements between factions of skeptics on tone, mixing political agendas, the relative value of free speech vs respectful dialogue, the value of public debates, on the status of “celebrity” skeptics, and other issues.

    So all you revealed was your own biased ignorance of the skeptical movement. You are trying to criticize something you don’t understand, and don’t seem interested in really learning about.

  160. Steven Novellaon 18 Jul 2017 at 7:11 am

    To clarify one other point – I never said we answered all the broad or fundamental questions. Part of scientific advance is that as we get deeper we get closer to a more universal understanding of reality, and we have some massive puzzle pieces left to discover. Also nothing I said could be fairly interpreted as saying there are no unknown unknowns.

    What I am saying is that, withing any given scientific discipline, science progresses often by first addressing basic question, some questions that are so fundamental you forget they were even questions. Then it progresses to more and more detailed, complex, and often difficult to address questions, with more incremental advances.

    There was a time when the medical profession did not understand that diseases exist – pathophysiological entities that were roughly the same from patient to patient. Before that it was believed that patients had their own unique illness. Then they had to work out whether diseases that can spread were not caused by miasms or gases, but by tiny living organisms.

    And further – of course there are exceptions. These are general patterns, not some strict mathematical rule.

  161. BillyJoe7on 18 Jul 2017 at 7:11 am

    Nidwin,

    “how can something that’s a known unknown affect our everyday life?”

    Apologies, I was nearing the end of my lunch break and forgot to delete that sentence which didn’t come out as I intended and which was meant to be replaced by what followed:

    “We know what the limits of our knowledge are regarding particles and forces (ranges and strengths) and we know that any particles and forces beyond those limits cannot have any effect on our everyday lives (because they are either too weak or too short range)”

    I trust that makes sense to you.

    And, fancy that – Echo didn’t pick it up! 😀
    Nor the troll! 😀

  162. SteveAon 18 Jul 2017 at 7:14 am

    Given the lengths of her posts, perhaps I should add ‘Apparently unemployed’ to Echo’s list of attributes.

    Echo. Rather than continue to showcase your cripplingly low self-esteem on this blog, why don’t you do something positive and get some counselling.

    An unqualified, arm’s-length diagnosis, but perhaps worth considering.

  163. BillyJoe7on 18 Jul 2017 at 7:19 am

    To the “little girl”,
    (And that’s a direct quote from the source!)

    Pete’s reply to the troll has been repeated many times since then in various forms.
    The troll has never even attempted to understand it, let alone answer it.
    He resolutely insists on remaining pig ignorant.

  164. Nidwinon 18 Jul 2017 at 7:49 am

    Thanks BillyJoe.

    I was just wondering and gave it a second thought actually between the end of your lunch break, my post and now. I think you don’t have to delete that phrase as it can be correct for certain cases.

    As example I’ll take a part of a subject, from a previous thread from Dr Novella.

    We know there’s water in the form of ice on the moon so therefore the possibility to have a permanent human settlement on the moon exists. But the known unknown is if that ice contains any dormant (frozen) organic lifeform(s) and if it does if that or those organims could be a thread to the settlers.

  165. Steve Crosson 18 Jul 2017 at 8:27 am

    SteveA,

    She won’t believe it, but I genuinely feel sorry for Echo and her many alter egos. Regarding the ‘Apparently unemployed’ hypothesis, I can’t help but wonder if she does have problems retaining a job in the scientific fields. Which might explain her newfound antipathy towards “scientism”.

    Also, my own unqualified*, arm’s-length diagnosis, is that she very well could be somewhat bipolar on top of her other issues. That could explain her sporadic, seemingly manic appearances in the comment section.

    In any event, I do think she would benefit from some professional counseling.

    Disclaimer: I am not in any way associated with the mental health field, so I don’t believe that my comments can be considered as unethical — but I do accept the charge of rudeness. However, I’ve seen the devastating effects of bipolar disorder on a close family friend, and I firmly believe that professional help can be life-saving.

  166. BillyJoe7on 18 Jul 2017 at 8:27 am

    Nidwin,

    My response to the troll was specifically in relation to his naieve childlike belief in the paranormal.

    There is not even any need to conduct research into the paranormal anymore because we now know that there are no particles or forces that could possibly form the basis of the paranormal. We know all the particles and forces that could possibly effect our everyday lives (the known knowns), and we know the limits of possible undiscovered particles and forces (the known unknowns), and these limits in range and strength preclude them from being able to affect our everyday lives. Modern particle physics has actually made enquiry into the paranormal obsolete.

    Belief in the paranormal is only possible through ignorance of modern particle physics

  167. Nidwinon 18 Jul 2017 at 8:38 am

    My mistake BJ as I thought it was a more general statement and not a response to paranormal energy claims.

  168. SteveAon 18 Jul 2017 at 9:12 am

    Steve Cross

    Less a hypothesis; more a tongue-in-cheek observation. But it would explain a lot.

  169. Echoon 18 Jul 2017 at 11:43 am

    @Personal Attacks: Yes Skeptics! Let’s just attack someone! Make naive claims about their mental health and state of employment. Well sure, you could look at the data and conclude those things. You could also look at the calendar, note it’s summer. You can see from my posts that I express ageism and frequently insulted people for their age, class, and privilege. I mean that last word alone should be a dead giveaway that I’m a millennial right? I also described your attempts to claim the skeptical movement is apolitical as offensive to the world’s political prisoners and compared it analogously to a hipster claiming they are not a hipster. Technically yes I am unemployed this summer, but I do volunteer some of my free time at a women’s shelter, and I am taking a couple very easy summer classes right now.

  170. Steve Crosson 18 Jul 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Echo,

    I’m sorry, but my comments were not intended maliciously, and I am genuinely concerned. Your behavior is very, very similar to that of a bipolar family friend during one of her manic phases.

    Your, umm … , enthusiastic participation seems to have generated more words by far than any other commenter — perhaps even more than the next 5 or 10 commenters combined.

    Which does seem kind of unusual, and a huge waste of your time to spend that much of it fruitlessly arguing on a blog that you have repeatedly characterized as insignificant and irrelevant anyway. And let’s be honest, you don’t seem to have changed a single person’s mind about anything at all, and that doesn’t seem likely to change anytime in the future. Seems like pointless and unhealthy behavior.

    Hence my concern. Your behavior is extremely atypical and benefits no one, least of all you.

  171. BillyJoe7on 19 Jul 2017 at 12:41 am

    If a bird can defy the laws of physics…

    https://www.reddit.com/r/gifs/comments/6nubr2/floaty_bird_floating/

    …then every idea that the troll pulls out of his arse could be true.

  172. Echoon 19 Jul 2017 at 4:21 am

    (Steve Cross): Which does seem kind of unusual, and a huge waste of your time to spend that much of it fruitlessly arguing on a blog that you have repeatedly characterized as insignificant and irrelevant anyway. And let’s be honest, you don’t seem to have changed a single person’s mind about anything at all, and that doesn’t seem likely to change anytime in the future. Seems like pointless and unhealthy behavior.
    Hence my concern. Your behavior is extremely atypical and benefits no one, least of all you.

    @Steve Cross: Huh? Didn’t I, in the very least, do some tiny little thing? If you will be so kind to look up and note how the literal text of the blog post used to say Einstein got a PhD and a Nobel for a one-page paper. It no longer says that exclusively due to my interaction with your community and its leader. I guess I’m not as bi-polar, ineffectual, naive, mentally-ill, as you portray me. I don’t see a single one of you Skeptics in these comments identifying factual errors in Novella’s post. From skeptics I see nothing but blind worship and calls for the crucifixion of the exiled hordes. Skeptics see nothing wrong with digging up the past and attacking comments hardnose wrote a couple years ago… Are you kidding me? Grow the f*** up. You remember all past transgressions against your cult, you love to attack the weakest things out there. Just in this article Novella is still talking about homeopathy, are you kidding me? I understand why he does this, I do. It’s so obviously unscientific, lacking evidence, and polar opposite to the ideas you hold dear. It’s also the perfect enemy. It just so happens that homeopathy is a weak foe whose products I can’t even find in the most fringe health stores anymore. I do see a lot of other more dangerous products being sold. Do what you want, I’m not telling you what you should do. It just seems to me that at this point homeopathy is a merely a rallying cry, a prop you like to hit like flat earthers.

    TheGorilla wrote a very clear and concise comment about some of the problems with your movement, including its obsession with scientism. This was essentially ignored. And by the way I hear skeptics refer to the concept I have to wonder if they even believe that scientism is a real phenomena. My problem with Novella’s article wasn’t simply just the “one-page paper” error, it’s the mythical narrative he peddles and keeps on promoting. Lonely geniuses no matter how intelligent, do not do science alone. It’s a group activity. You can totally look back and see Mendel as essentially discovering DNA and all these lovely things shared by all of life. But no one could have known this at the time, what if plants had a different genetic basis altogether, a different nucleic chemistry or were just fundamentally different from us in some other way? Or what if Mendel messed up, or fabricated his results? What if subsequent research did not support his results?

    These are all questions you skeptics ask today of any research. But yet somehow when you look back on history you don’t ask them, you see nothing wrong with the lonely genius mythical narrative. The same is true for Einstein, he had to wait for evidence, there were doubters, and alternative theories. His work did change everything, but at the same time others toiled fruitlessly their entire lives on theories and experiments that didn’t go anywhere. Not only does Einstein’s work depend on thousands of incremental advancements by others, it also is an example of a single hit in a sea of misses. When we look back it’s really easy to spot that it worked out, and that he really was this genius working in a patent office at time.

    Today we have many people pursuing various things. Most of the work churned out by these people will likely not pan out as Lord Novella likes to remind us. There’s entire research teams that are working on techniques to reveal the nature of dark matter using very specific experimental setups. I know of at least 3 different methodologies, I’m sure a physicist could name ten times as many different experiments. One of these experiments will work out, those people will get the recognition and a Nobel maybe. The rest will be forgotten. If you are a physicist you could likely place some bets on which are most likely to work, or if none will provide an incremental step forward, but you cannot know for sure. At this moment a couple different well funded expert-backed methodologies look equally likely to produce results.

    When you are in a science atmosphere like this one, you feel progress is slow and like everything is so complex and requires all these resources just to answer simple questions. These experiments also rarely work out perfectly, sometimes all they do is provide tiny incremental steps to assist in the design of future experiments. I guess all I mean is that this was very much the same type of situation in the early 1900s, people didn’t suddenly all jump on board and worship everything Einstein had to say, some fought him till the bitter end, others ignored him and kept working on alternate theories. It took years for the rest of the physics community to accept his work. It is also useful to remember that Einstein himself rejected many of the newer advancements in physics we now take for granted, he would quite often express extreme skepticism towards newer ideas. Very much like the hardcore particle physicists today who reject the new direction theoretical physics has moved in. Things haven’t changed as much as we like to think.

    So Steve Cross you claim you learned nothing, that’s pretty obvious. If you simply paid some attention to things I wrote specifically to you, on exactly one topic, you would be a better critical thinker. In this discussion you have shown a remarkable ability to misrepresent basic concepts and interactions. In previous comments I warned you about the use of leading/loaded questions. You would reply with essentially the same exact fallacious methods and ask even lower quality questions with more unjustified assumptions. For example, after I specifically explained that my problem is with the “skeptical movement” and not with “critical thinking.” You asked:

    If you don’t believe that good critical thinking and evidence based decision making are the best tools to use when deciding on a future course of action, then what do you believe?

    When I again explained it was a leading/loaded and unfair question, and went on to explain how Skepticism is much more than just “critical thinking.” You replied with:

    Most of the rest of us feel that the essential point, indeed the only point of skepticism is the promotion of critical thinking.

    That is at odds with the words of Novella, definitions of skepticism by other leaders of your movement, official descriptions on various official skeptical websites, blogs, and podcasts. When I presented you with some of these official resources and their definitions of the skeptical movement, you replied with this nonsensical grasping at straws:

    I will say this about my definition of skepticism. In the context of this thread on this blog, my definition is pretty reasonable. chikoppi gave a virtually identical definition a bit earlier. No one has ever said anything about the goals of either the SGU or NECSS — until you decided to create yet another of your trade mark straw man fabrications.

    You literally described official references, definitions of the skeptical movement by its leaders, and the description of skepticism written in this very thread by Novella himself, as “straw man fabrications.” Instead of recognizing the incredibly obvious discrepancy between your simplistic understanding of skepticism and the official sources, you simply doubled down on your naive definitions and pointed to a fellow random internet person for support. I honestly don’t know what to say to you at this point. Also do yourself a favor and checkout what people are actually like in manic episodes. How is it possible that someone like you, who is such a giant fan of a movement you erroneously believe is only concerned with critical thinking, can think it’s okay to diagnose people with mental illnesses over the internet? Are you a qualified professional in this field?

    @bachfiend: I would describe you as a true (Scotsman) skeptic. Honestly, you are awesome, your words make me regret some of my harsh words directed towards this movement. You have expressed tolerance, patience, and respect for dissenting opinions; while at the same time engaging with outsiders. I only wish others were more like you.

    With respect to the single quotation marks thing, I agree and understand what you meant by their use. I was only highlighting how you used them correctly and another commenter did not. He placed a paraphrase of my words in single quotation marks and introduced it with claiming that I “specifically” said what he had in the quote. Pete A, is providing references that support the proper use, which we all know by heart. But what’s ironic is he previously tried to equate my objection to a fabricated quote with…. I honestly don’t even understand what his argument was about.

    In reference to your words on the nature of skepticism, I would like to express that I mostly agree with everything you said, just with minor tweaks. In the original thought experiment, Novella expresses not that CAM is one monolithic organization, but he specifically asks the question which CAM modalities have been rejected by any “CAM profession or institution.” In this same way I’m not really asking the question to a monolithic entity, but to your small section of it. Novella gave an okay reply. But I still don’t see any examples of former skeptics that have been disavowed, or a single example of an external critique that Skeptics consider valid. The examples Novella previously provided, include his friend Massimo, and insiders. To me it seems very much like only skeptics are allowed to challenge skepticism. This is kinda like the CAM situation, they consider outside critics as ignorant and unable to provide insight into their methods.

    (bachfiend):Your claim that experimental proof that there are extra spatial dimensions will lead to applications and technology is doubtful. It will change our concept of what reality is – in the same way that we know that ordinary matter consists overwhelmingly of empty space, in the same way that atoms consist largely of empty space and hadrons (protons and neutrons) consist largely of empty space. And the three valence quarks composing each hadron accounts for only 2% of its mass, the remaining mass being composed of a host of virtual particles, which flash into and out of existence.

    So this paragraph begins with an obviously false statement. Actually by definition: experimentally confirming the existence of higher dimensions like those in string theory would depend on new technologies and applications. This is because nothing we have now can be used to design an experiment to verify string theory. Therefore such an experimental setup would have to include new technology, and/or applications. The experiment to confirm string theory will in itself be a massive technological accomplishment. Or at the very least it will require a very new and creative application of existing technologies — which by definition, will lead to newer more specialized technologies designed from scratch to interact with these higher dimensions in newer more efficient ways. It was possible to store tons of information digitally using 1960’s technology, but once the proof of concept was demonstrated, people worked on newer technologies from scratch to accomplish the same goal much more efficiently. The same will happen if string theory is confirmed using existing technology.

    @TheGorilla: I agree that it’s a little evasive for them to attempt to claim they don’t understand how I could dare ask such a question. Even Novella explained in the original thought experiment that all of CAM is not the same as individual CAM institutions and professions. Novella himself has not provided any evidence that he considers any outsider’s critique valid, and can only point to his allies and fellow skeptics who have mostly offered him encouragement. Very little has changed over the years within this movement, like how homeopathy was a frequently mentioned topic back in the day, and is still used as a rallying cry today.

    I also agree that there is a giant list of beliefs that most of this community holds. I even outlined a few political goals that they agreed with, with not a single objection. It’s interesting to see that some of these general goals haven’t changed in years, despite zero progress has been made on them. In fact we can easily argue that since the origins of this movement the power and influence of their enemies has only grown by orders of magnitude. They like to argue that their path is the one true path, that critical thinking is literally the most effective approach to anything. Meanwhile the presidency was obtained by someone who represents essentially the exact opposite of everything they stand for. Everywhere you look, you can see other ideological perspectives thriving.

  173. Echoon 19 Jul 2017 at 4:48 am

    @Steven Novella:

    (Novella): you are simply mishcharacterizing my position. I never said that what Einstein did was easy, or in any way minimize his hard work, dedication, or brilliance. That is a straw man that you will not let go, for obvious reasons. And yet again, I have described the incremental and cooperative nature of science often.

    I never said that you explicitly stated those things about Einstein, the nature of the history of science or the pace of its advancement. What I did express is that you are pushing that narrative, and you actually are, it’s incredibly obvious. You simply can’t see it because you are in an echo chamber. Most of the science books you read and love are by someone who promotes these same narratives. Statements like “we are all stardust,” or “we are way for the cosmos to know itself,” make you tingle with feelings of awe. You watched Sagan talk about how humans shifted the evolution of Heikegani crabs and believed it.

    It’s no coincidence that you do the following when describing science:
    -refer to past revolutionary breakthroughs as “low-hanging fruit”
    -describe Einstein as working on his theories in his “spare time”
    -anachronistically describe Mendel as accomplishing breakthroughs in a field that was unaware of his existence. Without his work being replicated, and without anyone at the time possibly being able to know that he was discovering something so profound and common to all life on the planet.
    -claim that it was easy for literally any field to be revolutionized in the recent past
    -claim broad questions have been answered (I will admit you have Expanded and clarified this point significantly in the comments)
    -describe science as incredibly difficult today, and proceeding in very slow incremental steps, without acknowledging the many incremental steps and slow progression in the past.

    How then is it possible that your fabrication of a historical detail, which described Einstein as getting a PhD and a Nobel for a “one-page paper,” is merely an innocent mistake? It perfectly fits the narrative you promoted, wherein science was a joke back in the day, people could simply just revolutionize all of physics in their “spare time.” It’s also useful to point out that while you did take the correction and fix your error, your new sentence still perfectly fits this narrative. It didn’t previously read “and all in his spare time,” you added that when you fixed it. You added something that fits the narrative… perfectly…

    Einstein was a highly focused person, likely to an obsessive degree. Multiple biographers have him depicted as not eating or sleeping for long periods of time while deeply entranced with his work. “Spare time,” is inaccurate and highly misleading. Either this is all an amazing coincidence, or you have some ideas about the history of science that are highly questionable. How can it be a coincidence that after reading my critique, and honorably taking the correction, you still wrote something that fits the narrative I described? If this wasn’t something implicit or a narrative you really believed in, wouldn’t you have noticed the issues? Therefore you must either really believe in it or not see it, which are both problematic. I can understand why, I’ve read many non-fiction science best sellers, I see a sub culture which promotes these narratives along with scientism to justify many things, including their beliefs and goals.

    (Novella): And you continue to be wrong about my reference to Mendel. His work was a breakthrough, even if it was ignored and only later rediscovered. That fact is irrelevant to my point. Do you think that someone like Mendel now, working in his garden, could make a similar discovery about genetics? Is that your position? If not, then you are agreeing with me.

    Yes actually I do believe that someone today like Mendel working alone in their garden can make a great discovery, I would rate it as highly improbable and wouldn’t recommend it, but it’s certainly within the realm of possibility. Claiming with near absolute certainty that something like that is impossible is much closer to modern ideas about scientism, in which breakthroughs can only come from multimillion dollar projects. Just imagine if you were a scientist from 500 years in the future, do you still think with absolute certainty that you couldn’t do something astonishing in a garden with today’s technology? Additionally, Mendel didn’t know that at the time he was discovering a fundamental property of all life. That’s only obvious in retrospect, if you were there at the time you couldn’t have possibly known what precisely was going on, and that it applied to every living organism due to some undiscovered double-helix molecule in cells.

    You know science is done at the community level. No scientific breakthrough, no matter how profound, obvious, or revolutionary, is done in isolation. It requires replication and acceptance by peers. You can only say Mendel accomplished a breakthrough in retrospect, because you know what he discovered is indicative of something as profound as genes and DNA. But at the time no one knew that, no one even noticed the significance of his work until they independently did work that essentially discovered the same thing he did. The difference is their work was part of the mainstream community of science and supported each other’s findings.

    We both know the same details, we just have different perspectives, maybe an example will help? Suppose while working alone in your garden, you discovered something really profound that was indicative of a revolutionary new scientific theory. However, you can’t possibly know just how profound your work is because it will take years of future innovations and scientific breakthroughs to reveal the nature of your findings. To you it looks for sure like it applies to peas and other plants, and might just explain other things, but you can’t know for sure based simply on what you have done so far. Nevertheless you find it profound. You give lectures to scientists on your work, no one seems to understand you, you carry on a correspondence with one of the leading biologists in the world, he doesn’t seem to appreciate your findings. You then reach the end of your days.

    Okay so given all of that as is, did you accomplish a revolutionary scientific breakthrough with your work? In how many massive ways does that differ from the communal nature of science, in its normal everyday operation? If you didn’t inspire a single person to carry on your work, take it seriously, follow in your footsteps, replicate your work, or attempt to disprove it, what did you do? If years later, people who never heard of you and your work, independently rediscover your findings, were you even involved in the process of discovery? If people only understood your work much later and after someone else did the same thing, what exactly did you do? Did you add to the process of science or are you merely an anachronistic/disconnected footnote? How can someone with no true ideological direct decedents, who was disconnected from the mainstream process of science, who inspired no one to replicate his work, be accurately described as the “father” of an entire discipline? If a tree falls in the forest with no one around to hear it… I mean isn’t it the least bit ironic that the father of genetics is a non-biological parent? He’s a retconned detail, shoehorned in to fit a narrative.

    Mendel’s story is exceptional, for sure. This is why skeptics love it, but if someone like that came up to you today, with revolutionary findings you couldn’t understand for decades to come, you would laugh in their face!! Kinda like how you like to laugh at hardnose for daring to imagine there is still tremendous amounts of mystery left in the world, and all we have done is scratched the surface. A view I most certainly share, so laugh at me too, I deserve it for daring to dream.

    You like Mendel’s story because it fits your narratives, science was easy back in the day, lonely monks discovered what would later be revealed to be DNA, a molecule in all life on this planet. And now science is so hard, we need the LHC and decades to accomplish the tiniest of incremental steps. You love the story so much that you abandon your ideals of skepticism, chronology, historical accuracy, the nature of science, replication etc.

    Your ideas about Mendel are culturally-bound. You fail to see how the description of him as the founder of genetics is just people being charitable and kind. And likely feeling guilty for how he died without ever receiving recognition, especially after lecturing all those scientists in his day. This is not unlike how you like to feel about Einstein, you all just like the good things, you like to forget how he toiled fruitlessly for decades on this unified field theory, while ignoring breakthroughs we all believe in now. Or Newton, Galileo, the Greeks, Egyptians etc.

    When you worship at the altar of scientism, history itself bends to your will, and unfolds into a wonderful tale of misunderstood geniuses plagued by the ignorant hordes.

    (Novella): I also think it’s rich that you are trying to take a high horse about others admitting they were wrong, when you refuse to do so. You are not engaging in constructive criticism, you are just sniping.

    I admitted to mumadadd, that I write in an informal/unprofessional way and therefore conceded that I made some of the grammatical errors he accused me of, among other mistakes. I admitted to Pete A that I misused gravity waves instead of gravitational waves. I admitted in general, and to multiple people specifically, that I write using offensive attakcs and am mostly inspired by irreverent hatred. I freely admit I’m ageist and intolerant of your movement.

    I have to say though, this whole: omg-you-won’t-even-admit-you-made-a-mistake-you-arrogant-bitch argument is pretty annoying. It’s also been repeated many times in this very thread by your fans well before you lazily got around to it. Oh but I know, you don’t actually read all the comments as you have admitted, to escape being held accountable. Also in the case of some of these errors I did admit to, I do see people being very unforgiving and essentially calling for my crucifixion or exile.

    So what actual motivation would I have to admit mistakes at this point? Given the behavior of your community thus far, would you expect that if I prostrated myself at your feet, confessed all my sins and begged for forgiveness, they wouldn’t trample me to death? We have examples of people here quoting hardnose’s arguments from years ago, and being supported for it. I wouldn’t describe them as nice people who are capable of forgiveness. I would describe them as petty, vindictive, wound-collecting, sociopathic trolls. Bowing down to such people would likely be suicide.

    In regards to your response to the open challenge thing, I have actually read all of that history and nope I still have to disagree that this doesn’t pass the challenge, and I’ll explain why. I’m not shifting any goal posts. First PZ Myers left your movement of his own volition, he was not disavowed or forced out. So PZ Myers fits the category of someone who left sure, I guess. But his critiques of your movement are not exactly an outsider’s perspective. I do have to agree with many of his points. I think you haven’t learned much since 2013 or changed at all, or made progress on any basic goals.

    freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/05/05/i-officially-divorce-myself-from-the-skeptic-movement/

    Secondly, Massimo, who proudly calls himself a member of your movement, is also not able to provide an outsider’s critique of your movement, by definition. Isn’t he a personal friend of yours? Either way, while I do think he makes some good points, and I appreciate his work and the podcast he used to host, once again this is just you showing me, a fellow skeptic that you argue with, and not really a serious critique of your movement. You still just like CAM therapists, won’t acknowledge any outsider’s words as valid, disavow or push people out, or abandon ineffective techniques or change your goals, learn from the past.

    https://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2013/05/pz-myers-quits-skeptic-movement-should.html?m=1

    In fact, since your reply I’ve looked around, there isn’t a single outsider’s perspective on your movement that you value. Outsiders by your own definitions are fools, and are therefore incapable of providing insight into your techniques, strategies and goals. Hmmm… isn’t that exactly how CAM organizations treat outsiders, critics and any challenges? Isn’t that how people who promote woo products act when they are challenged? Don’t psi researchers claim that “non-believers” collapse the wavelength, and that rigorous outside scientific observation can’t reveal their secrets? Don’t they write exactly this kind of bullshit:

    (Novella): So all you revealed was your own biased ignorance of the skeptical movement. You are trying to criticize something you don’t understand, and don’t seem interested in really learning about.

    Isn’t that exactly how all CAM proponents, psi researchers, and pseudoscientists treat their critics? Oh but in your case, when you attack me, (someone who has gone to TAM, NECSS, listened to your lectures, read your work, and listened to your podcasts), you totally justified in this attack? And you are telling the truth about this outsider? How is it that I don’t understand the skeptical movement? Do you think I’m mentally deficient in some way, and that I can’t read the about sections on your websites, and official descriptions of your movement, or hear the little bit at the end of podcast? I guess you can’t be defined, and you are immune to outside attack, just like every pseudoscientific institution.

    You haven’t provided any evidence that you have dropped some your tactics from the movement because they have proven to be ineffective. When I check out the history I see skeptics ranting about homeopathy and psi decades ago.

    I’m an outsider. I’ve described many flaws with your movement, I’ve described in detail how many of your tactics and strategies are ineffective. Why they fail, and the tasks for which they are wholly inappropriate. I’ve explained how you can’t point to a single goal on which you’ve made progress. All I’m met with is ridicule and claims that yours is the one true path, by which the truth is revealed and all things can most effectively be done.

    How is it that I don’t understand how your movement has literally accomplished nothing since its beginnings? I’m sorry, please outline what you’ve accomplished? Every foe you have ever attacked has only grown by orders of magnitude under your watchful gaze. Or wait, is this the point? Is what I don’t understand as an outsider, that your real objectives are to not have any elected official representatives and have someone who’s an anti-intellectual non-skeptic in the seat of global power and influence?

    Oh I’m sorry, am I way off base here? Please oh god of skepticism, show me what measurable effect your movement has had on this world or culture? Show me what goal you have accomplished. What foe you have vanquished. Point to who it is that sits in government that represents your movement?

    If you cannot, then I guess I do perfectly understand that your movement is ineffective, tired and detached from reality.

    Here’s an outsider perspective. There’s many things you don’t understand as a movement. For example here’s an obvious one you do not see: ideologies are rarely ever destroyed, and they don’t have to be in order to accomplish many complex goals. Your movement is obsessed with listing all errors and missteps your opponents make in daily almost ritualistic manner, you know like going to church and listening to that homily.

    Nazi ideology was not wiped out with the defeat of The Third Reich, that doesn’t mean we had to keep fighting it, tracking everyone down and watching everything they did. We moved on to newer bigger threats. Is nazism still around? It sure is. We could keep writing about it, forever, like it’s the most serious thing ever, like it’s homeopathy 🙂 or we could move on, to bigger threats, harder targets, more dangerous foes. Ask some random people, if they even know what homeopathy is, I doubt you will find many fans of it, or even people who have heard the word. That’s a huge problem, you are obsessively focused on a target that most people aren’t even aware of? A thing that most people don’t fear, or will ever be threatened by? It’s like you are Cold War era Mossad agents, tracking down Nazi war criminals in Argentina. I guess your work makes sense to you… ignore your neighbors that seek to destroy you, to venture half way around the world to kidnap/murder a scared old man. As a millennial I see a movement that is detached from reality. But carry on, I’m an idiot, ignore me.

    (Novella):“Low hanging fruit” is relative, and that is all I am saying. Science has always been hard, and requires creative thinking and lots of work.

    First, right on its face, the concept of Einstein plucking “low-hanging fruit,” and your new stance that: science has always been hard and requires a lot of work, directly contradict each other.

    Second, I don’t know if this is what you actually believe, because this sentiment directly contradicts your article above, in which you describe Einstein essentially earning a PhD and a Nobel in his “spare time,” and lament about how difficult science is now with your example of the LHC.

    So which is it? Was science easy back in the day? Did Einstein get a PhD and a Nobel for just plucking some “low-hanging fruit,” in his “spare time?” Or is it the case that “science has always been hard, and requires creative thinking and lots of work?” Which of these descriptions fits the narrative I previously described? Which accurately represents reality? I mean you are the author, what do I know, I’m the just the person your fans describe as the sad, insecure, approval seeking, bi polar, crazy, outsider, who knows nothing.

  174. BillyJoe7on 19 Jul 2017 at 6:42 am

    I predict that soon we will see a post from our little girl friend that never ends.

  175. Nidwinon 19 Jul 2017 at 7:19 am

    “(Echo): Mendel’s story is exceptional, for sure. This is why skeptics love it, but if someone like that came up to you today, with revolutionary findings you couldn’t understand for decades to come, you would laugh in their face!! Kinda like how you like to laugh at hardnose for daring to imagine there is still tremendous amounts of mystery left in the world, and all we have done is scratched the surface. A view I most certainly share, so laugh at me too, I deserve it for daring to dream.”

    I’ve no idea what Dr Novella’s reaction is or will be if faced with the unknown or with something he would consider an extraordinaey claim, against everything he takes for granted or to be certainty. But this is a loophole situation and till Today the basic rule “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” still applies.

    I do claim that I can provoke controlled paresthesia at will without any external stimuli, and much more, on most/large parts of my body. I can not only provoke it but intensify and pulse it. And since a week or so I start to be able to, sometimes and it takes me a while when able to, to “tingle” and pulse on parts of my spinal cord.

    This is my claim and this for Dr Novella requires evidence as there aren’t twenty different possible explanations of what I’m able to do. Dr Novella as a neurologist has at this point in time only one way to respond to my claim and that’s “No way” “Not possible” “delusional pseudo science” “prove me wrong”.

    My point here isn’t to attack Dr Novella but just to show you Echo one of the loopholes and difficulties of something completely new and/or unexpected or deemed improbable or just impossible. This also means that my claim can’t just be accepted by just me writing this down here the same way we can’t accept (and shouldn’t) Hardnose, Egnor and others claims, certainly not when coming from imaginations or dreaming stuff. My claim requires extraodinary evidence otherwise it has to be dismissed just as we do dismiss all pseudo and paranormal claims that fail to provide positive and controlable evidence. That’s the only way it can work.

    From all the skeptics/critical thinkers I actually find Dr Novella quite open and fair compared to what I’ve run into. For me he seems to actually keep an open mind, when appropriate of course. Goop shizz telling our ladies to put shizz in their vagina is a no go but when you read what Dr Novella wrote about semi-controversial topics, e.g AMSR and Lucid Dreaming, it’s quite positive. I don’t think you would have the same kind of writing from my part about Lucid Dreaming.

    You’re right that we’re doing a lousy job and aren’t achieving much. But there’s so much crap being thrown around to be fought against or debunked that there’s not much time left for some positive attitude where possible. A more gentle approach could have a better impact on a larger scale but opposed to science, where there’s a huge need to have research with a negative end-result published too, we aren’t going to create fake articles to show we can often be wrong too.

  176. Steve Crosson 19 Jul 2017 at 7:22 am

    Echo,

    I feel sorry for you. I really do.

    I’ve said that you are very smart, and even that you are right on many things most of the time. And so have others.

    But try to take an honest look at your own behavior. Your reaction is excessive, if not compulsive. If you can’t understand how that make you appear to be “sad, insecure, [and] approval seeking”, then you really ought to seek advice from a professional or at least an independent observer.

  177. Echoon 19 Jul 2017 at 11:56 am

    @Nidwin: Hey thank you, honestly reading your comment helped me understand some things. I also agree Novella is pretty cool when it comes to those situations you outlined. He doesn’t automatically mock religion and militantly promote atheism, which I can respect.

    @Steve Cross, Billy: Don’t you see that you are part of the problem? Anyone can just write a couple dismissive lines, and poke fun at someone. Describing me as mentally ill, instead of engaging, is very much against the beliefs of the skeptical movement. Also, if I was truly sad, insecure and seeking approval I wouldn’t act like this, but rather very much like you. I would just go with the flow, attack the outsiders, and insult people. Do what ever it took to fit in with the average behavior on this website. I would follow, march in lockstep and never dream of starting a kerfuffle or saying a bad thing about your leader, or the problems with your movement.

  178. hardnoseon 19 Jul 2017 at 1:34 pm

    “He doesn’t automatically mock religion and militantly promote atheism”

    He thinks all religion is stupid and he is a devout atheist. You may sometimes have to read between the lines to see this.

  179. bachfiendon 19 Jul 2017 at 4:01 pm

    Echo,

    It’s very difficult to read your rather lengthy columns in order to determine what you’re trying to say. I really don’t feel it’s worth the effort.

    I read your rather ambiguous claim that having experimental evidence that there are extra spatial dimensions as meaning that it would lead to new applications and technology not that it would require new applications and technology to get the experimental evidence that there are extra spatial dimensions.

    You’d actually written ‘Sorry I have to call you on this. Having a theory that higher dimensions exist is not the same as experimental evidence. The evidence would mean applications which would mean technology, that would radically change everything and likely add more unsolved broader questions not less of them’.

    To me, that sounds more like my original interpretation, not your later clarification.

    Regarding single and double quotation marks – neither is necessarily correct and the other incorrect. It is poor form though to put a paraphrasing of what someone has said in quotation marks unless somehow it’s indicated that it’s a paraphrasing. It is is wrong to write “you said ‘ridiculous claim A'”, but it’s OK to write “in effect you’re saying ‘ridiculous claim A'”, I which case it’s obvious that it isn’t a direct quote.

    I’m not interested in going back over the now very lengthy comments to find the use of a quotation that you’d objected to so vehemently. Life is too short.

  180. BillyJoe7on 19 Jul 2017 at 5:21 pm

    Echo,

    Perhaps you could quote me where I described you as mentally ill.
    And, no, I won’t respond to your massive straw men versions of scepticism and sceptics.
    But I did enjoy your put down of the troll in the other thread.

  181. Echoon 19 Jul 2017 at 5:26 pm

    @bachfiend: I love how skeptics like to always tell their opponents that their arguments aren’t good enough, to try harder, and to be more diligent. You want us to try harder to understand you. Novella himself claims I know nothing about your movement, even though I’ve read all that history he referenced, I’ve been to NECSS, TAM, I’ve listened to the lectures and podcasts, but still somehow he describes me as knowing nothing, and refusing to try… How crazy is it that, outsiders have to try so hard, and are never truly qualified to comment on your movement, but yet you skeptics can claim you only have so much time, that life is too short and that you can’t read the comments because they are too long?

    In reference to the quoting, well here it is.

    theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-fragility-of-truth/#comment-349751
    (chikopii): Except that you specifically said the skeptical movement is ‘doing it wrong.’

    His comments are in the context of a discussion where I repeatedly expressed my frustration with him and other Skeptics taking my opinions and boiling them down to such simplistic straw mans. Not only did I not say what is in those quotes, he claims I “specifically” said them. Hmm… how can someone “specifically” say something that’s a simplistic paraphrasing? If you think that’s a fair description of what I said, then what about the idiotic loaded questions Steve Cross asked me, are they also fair? One of which is the following:

    (Steve Cross):If you don’t believe that good critical thinking and evidence based decision making are the best tools to use when deciding on a future course of action, then what do you believe?

    Never did I say such a thing, I always said my problem was with the skeptical movement and not with critical thinking, I even explicitly outlined how the skeptical movement is not just simply critical thinking. He also said that nonsense to me after I already explained how he loved to use these loaded questions. These two Skeptics presented straw mans of my position. Steve Cross’ bullshit is the worst though, absolute shameless use of fallacious reasoning. Followed-through with an inability to learn anything, a descent into personal attacks and crash landing into an embarrassing commentary on my mental state. Chikopii is just a vapid sophist, who I tried my best to like, there’s nothing really in his skillset despite the appeal to his own authority, in which he “specifically” described himself as being a paid professional who makes his money convincing people. So what, he’s a con artist?

    In regards to the comments on experimental breakthroughs leading to new technologies, applications and theories. It’s self-evident, I don’t have to defend it, the historical record outlines it perfectly. You can look at every single major theoretical advancement over the last 200 years and see a pretty obvious pattern. For example, they started constructing the LHC before the technological breakthroughs, they would later require for their experiments were accomplished. New things had to be invented. The same is true with different NASA projects, they broke ground on various projects, knowing (hoping) that by the time they got closer to their deadlines, the required technologies would be there. Theory leads to experimentation, these experiments in some cases require the engineering of new mechanisms, processes or techniques. In the other cases they require a new application of existing things. Either way, once you get the desired outcome and demonstrate a proof of concept, people design new technological applications and things from scratch to more efficiently accomplish the same goal. Therefore, yes indeed once (if) the first experimental evidence of string theory comes in, it will change things and directly need to new technologies and theories.

  182. Echoon 19 Jul 2017 at 5:53 pm

    @BillyJoe7: Holy cannoli, sorry I did not see that at all. I actually even read your post in the other thread and I guess I assumed it was sarcasm. That you were talking about someone else, or something. My bad. Well it’s good to see some range of opinions, I can respect that.

  183. bachfiendon 19 Jul 2017 at 6:04 pm

    Echo,

    The Large Hadron Collider wasn’t built before the technology needed to work was devised. It just needed much more of existing technology. Much larger data storing systems to retain the interesting data and throw away the dross about stuff the physicists already knew about. CERN constructed the LHC to replace the large electron/positron collider using the same tunnel – so it wasn’t the optimum size, and as a result limits its possible maximum energy of the collisions it can produce.

    And it hasn’t produced much, besides coming up with a candidate particle for the Higgs boson and ruling out possible theories such as supersymmetry. It hasn’t produced anything in new technology or applications.

    Having experimental evidence that String Theory is true or that extra spatial dimensions exist might lead to new technology and applications such as the science fiction dream of faster than light travel, but I don’t see it – not in our lifetimes. As an example, quantum entanglement was described over 80 years ago, but it hasn’t yet led to any breakthrough in transmitting information over large distances at faster than light speeds. Let alone any understanding what quantum entanglement actually means (one philosopher suggested that it might be evidence that we’re living in a computer simulation – the particles which are entangled are actually very close on the hard drive. Or it could be evidence that there are extra spatial dimensions, and the entanglement occurs in the extra dimensions mediated by novel unknown particles – who knows?).

  184. Willyon 19 Jul 2017 at 6:21 pm

    Speaking of “truth”, the latest Sam Harris podcast (https://www.samharris.org/podcast/item/triggered) features a discussion with Scott Adams (Dilbert) about Trump. It is quite fascinating to hear the differences between rational people regarding this topic. I come down firmly on Harris’ side and I am mostly bewildered by Adams’ opinions, but it is nonetheless a good discussion. I encourage all of you to listen to it regardless of your political persuasion.

  185. Steve Crosson 19 Jul 2017 at 6:42 pm

    Echo,

    I understand that we have a history, but each time you come back with a new name, I genuinely try to start fresh in the hope that new name = new attitude. Yet you automatically assume the worst possible interpretation of pretty much everything that anyone says.

    Case in point: my repeated “demand” for answers about how you would go about selecting a best course of action was in no way intended to be a leading or gotcha type question. I was (and still am) simply trying to understand what it is that you believe the skeptic movement should be doing better or differently.

    You’ve given page after page of all the things you feel are wrong, but I’ve yet to see one concrete, specific suggestion. Initially, it wasn’t even clear that you accepted critical thinking and evidence based decision making as useful tools to help determine the right course of action in a given situation.

    You’ve since cleared that up, but it still isn’t clear what exactly you expect the skeptic movement to actually do. Which is exactly why I kept asking the same questions.

    You’ve done nothing except repeat variations on the theme that we are doing it wrong. You expressed vague generalities on “new laws”, etc. but when asked for specifics on which laws, you retreated to “it’s complicated” and refused to commit.

    News flash: we already know it’s complicated and I’m pretty sure that everyone also agrees that we’re not accomplishing nearly as much as anyone would hope.

    So, if you’ve got constructive suggestions, please don’t keep them secret.

  186. Steve Crosson 19 Jul 2017 at 6:48 pm

    Willy,

    With respect, as much as I used to enjoy Dilbert, I don’t think that Scott Adams really deserves the title “rational” any more. Visit his blog if you can stand it. Adams has turned into an arrogant, self-important, extremely misogynist, creep.

  187. chikoppion 19 Jul 2017 at 6:58 pm

    I was hoping that by taking a break it would provide an opportunity for things to de-escalate. I’m not sure that’s happened, but I’m trying my best here to re-engage in a productive manner and reset from where things went awry.

    [Echo] On knife-fighting: Every single skeptic fails to understand how the world really works. This might be because you grew up watching Walter Cronkite and his followers, where the “truth” was “true.” Everything was easy, black and white. News papers and tv anchors told you the “truth.” Wrong….

    That was never the case, but you would watch it and listen to them, trust them so much. You were not presented with sophisticated informed opinions, but instead with someone telling you exactly what to believe and what was right. You never realized that they were telling a biased story from a limited perspective, it was always presented as the “truth.” You thought you were an informed voter because you knew a tiny little amount about one political issue. You still to this day scoff when people try to tell you that the mainstream media is biased.

    Trump won because you believe in “truth.” You thought that it didn’t matter how huge he was on social media, how much he was covered on tv, you laughed during the debates at all the stupid things he said and described it as word salad. None of this mattered because he was a liar, and lies are the opposite of the “truth.” Truth is how you win, truth is reality, when you lie you expose yourself as being bad. Skeptics believed all this, and mostly likely still do.

    Trump won because of exposure and emotional appeal. Truth had nothing to do with it. I know it might be hard for you to believe, but many people really loved his performance in the debates. They saw him trying to stick it to snobby intellectuals. He spoke in broken sentences, just like them. She spoke flawlessly, like… well no one.

    The weapons you need to wield to win this war of ideas are things you are incapable of, due to your cold rationality and lack of emotional intelligence. You have no empathy, respect, or patience for people who disagree with you. You are likely somewhere on the spectrum. You are highly functional of course, and intelligent, no one is debating that. You just are disconnected from the world. You are too good to get dirty fighting in the muck with us. You don’t understand us, and we don’t understand you.

    I think it’s fair to say that you believe skeptics intrinsically incapable of running a successful political campaign in the current social environment.

    If this is not a fair characterization of your comments please feel free to amend.

    On the premise that an overarching goal of the skeptic movement is to increase awareness, appreciation, and adoption of evidence-based critical thinking, what do you suggest?

  188. Echoon 19 Jul 2017 at 7:26 pm

    @bachfiend: You are 100% wrong about the LHC not requiring new technologies and creative applications of existing things, please go watch any documentary on it, read any description of the history of its development, or interviews with the people who worked on it. I never said that it required massively new ideas, and radical changes to theories or science. I’m talking about mechanisms, engineering and other advancements. For example, I know we had electromagnets before the LHC, however the kind of magnets they needed in order to be able to do the experiments they wanted to do, needed to be designed from scratch using new technologies, materials and processes. It’s funny how you describe science as proceeding in incremental steps, but you can’t see the difference between the LHC and its predecessors. It’s like claiming nothing new has happened in physics since Einstien, or nothing as profound has happened in genetics since Mendel. Unlike you, I see any step forward as an achievement.

    re: LHC:

    (bachfiend): And it hasn’t produced much, besides coming up with a candidate particle for the Higgs boson and ruling out possible theories such as supersymmetry. It hasn’t produced anything in new technology or applications.

    Thank you for perfectly illustrating my problem with the skeptical movement and the narratives it promotes! You like to think only giant revolutions on the level of Einstein matter, and belittle modern advancements like the LHC. Actually, just the experiment they ran at the LHC to attempt to find the Higgs boson, is a spectacular human achievement! To look at it using your narratives, is sheer ignorance. Also your point about it not producing new technologies is laughable, do you think the early experimental evidence of Einstein’s theories resulted in immediate technologies and applications? Didn’t it take decades? Aren’t we still waiting on some things? You are also forgetting that the LHC is still there, and will be used again for more experiments. The experiments they first ran, gave incremental information they needed to better design future experiments. So the early work at the LHC is already providing new advancements, applications and helping inform the creation of new technologies.

  189. Echoon 19 Jul 2017 at 8:36 pm

    @Steve Cross: I’ve actually replied to all of your questions and concerns in your new comment… Days ago. It is you who refuses to come and meet me half way. From the way you like to repeat your loaded/misleading questions, it’s obvious you don’t read my writing. I’ve already outlined, in detail, with quotes, exactly how you misrepresented my words.

    In the discussion with you, I would literally explain how misleading and flawed your summaries were… I would explain in detail how you use a technique whereby you ask a loaded question filled with unjustified, unsupported assumptions… and what would you do with all that? You would simply REPEAT every single error, while adding even more fallacious reasoning to your arguments. I mean it’s all there for anyone to read, if you want to engage with me address it.
    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-fragility-of-truth/#comment-350641

    @chikoppi: re:

    I think it’s fair to say that you believe skeptics intrinsically incapable of running a successful political campaign in the current social environment.

    If this is not a fair characterization of your comments please feel free to amend.

    On the premise that an overarching goal of the skeptic movement is to increase awareness, appreciation, and adoption of evidence-based critical thinking, what do you suggest?

    I have said multiple times almost exactly that. That skeptics are incapable of running a presidential campaign. In terms of political campaigns in general, your methods are also flawed.

    I don’t really agree with your question. For example, I have referenced official sources that explicitly mention that the skeptical movement is much more than simply critical thinking, I think it’s highly misleading and dismissive of my words to frame the question like that in the first place.

    The problem with you skeptics is that obviously you are smart and well read, you know what I know about critical thinking, you looked up the fallacies, you studied logic, read some books, had some debates with ignorant people etc.

    However, some elements of logic you don’t seem to understand, like the difference between some concepts like: obversion, inversion, corollaries, converses and negatives. When someone like me says that I have problems with the skeptical movement, it doesn’t automatically mean I must therefore have all the answers and solutions. Recognizing a problem, noticing the ineffectiveness of your techniques, and the zero progress on your goals, does not automatically mean that I have answers. Refusing to recognize the value in what I have to say, because I can’t solve everything, doesn’t help you either, it’s denial. It is like Steve Cross’ response where he claims that skepticism is the most effective way of getting literally anything done. That’s just blind arrogance and denialism, turn on the TV, do you see your movement’s impact on, or it’s strategies being employed by, the people who run the country?

    I do have many ideas on how to better accomplish one of your goals.
    Step 1: Admit that your methods are ineffective, that your foes have only grown in power and influence. That little (no) progress has been made on your goals, none of your foes have been vanquished.
    Step 2: Ask why? Is it a vast confluence of events or some grand conspiracy holding you back? Or is it indicative of a lack of understanding the modern world and a detachment from reality.
    Step 3: Learn from your opponents, using speech that isolates people and isn’t welcoming of outsiders is a giant mistake. I know you think they do this when they insult you, but they are the majority talking about a minority, you do not have this privilege. Even when they are something like CAM, they still outnumber you, have more brand awareness and most people side with them not you. You need to somehow stick to your ideals, but yet speak to everyone, not just insiders that share your specialized language and believe in your narratives.
    Step 4: You should not express biased and offensive views in the articles written by the leaders of your movement, especially not ones referenced on Facebook and other media. Drop the virtue signalling, the borderline identity politics, and preaching to the choir. If your movement ever reached critical mass, you would come to regret all these insulting things you have written in the past, about religion, new age beliefs, government etc. Your enemies will mine your words and depict you (rightfully) as atheist, close-minded assholes. I know you think that’s okay, but religion and new age beliefs are not going away any time soon, most people on the planet will react very negatively to your attacks. Again I know you might not care, but to accomplish your goals you have to play the game at the very least a little bit. If you refuse to compromise then I guess nothing will change.
    Step 5: Study some successful political movements. Focus much more heavily on recruitment. All movements that do not do this are destined to fail much sooner than you would think. In fact some of the most successful movements are just solely focused on increasing their numbers. Learn from petitions, boycotts and other simple movements that have clear simple goals.
    Step 6: Learn to set… I can’t help but feel like you won’t care, and will just laugh at me as usual, so I’ll stop there, from my post history, you can trust me when I say I can add 100 times that.

    I’ve expanded and clarified exactly what my problems are with the movement in my most recent reply to Novella:
    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-fragility-of-truth/#comment-350646

  190. bachfiendon 19 Jul 2017 at 8:54 pm

    Echo,

    Your rebuttal of my comment concerning the Large Hadron Collider is just nonsense. There was no new technology involved in it – just an incremental advance. It’s led to no new physics, which is a disappointment, or perhaps not – indicating that we may have discovered all that there is (which I doubt).

    We need a bigger collider with higher energies to know with higher levels of confidence. Or perhaps other methods.

    I don’t belittle CERN or the LHC – I’ve been there, took part in the public tour, got the coffee mug… I understood every single word the scientist-guide used (it was just the sentences I was having difficulty with).

  191. Echoon 19 Jul 2017 at 9:42 pm

    @Bachfield: Would you consider the pieces inside the phone in my pocket today to be “new technology,” when compared to phones from a decade ago? Your personal idea of the word “technology” is something along the lines of: revolutionary accomplishment, profound breakthrough or killer app. And not the actual definition of the word.

    My phone does essentially the same things phones did a decade ago, it’s just that there are some incremental advances, and all the pieces inside it depend on innovations that didn’t exist a decade ago. This is essentially a description of technological advancement. Is the movement from floppy disks, to CDs, USB drives, to today’s cloud computing not the story of “new technologies.” The LHC is being upgraded as we speak, is it not? To be able to work with higher energies, and discover new things. The LHC relied on older particle accelerator tech, but it is itself an incremental technological advance, that will lead to more technological advancement. Sorry to be that girl, but you really do sound like an old man when you belittle one of humanity’s greatest scientific, and yes, technological achievements. This is the kind of rhetoric that isolates your movement from the mainstream. Notice how most science communicators dont talk like this about the LHC. And I hope the people who work on it, don’t either, or they will never get funding for something you think is so small and insignificant.

  192. bachfiendon 19 Jul 2017 at 10:50 pm

    Echo,

    You keep on making repeated straw man arguments. I’m not belittling the LHC for just having incremental advances. I wrote that we need larger colliders achieving higher energies, remember?

    And I don’t think that the LHC is small and insignificant. I’ve been there, don’t forget. I thought CERN was the only thing making a visit to Geneva worth it.

    Skepticism isn’t my movement, when you refer to it as ‘your movement’. Skepticism is a way of thinking – not accepting anything as true without adequate evidence. I’m not a card-carrying skeptic, because there aren’t any card-carrying skeptics.

    You’re just one straw man argument from start to finish.

  193. chikoppion 19 Jul 2017 at 11:07 pm

    [Echo] I don’t really agree with your question. For example, I have referenced official sources that explicitly mention that the skeptical movement is much more than simply critical thinking, I think it’s highly misleading and dismissive of my words to frame the question like that in the first place.

    I’m not asserting that is is the only issue or priority. But I do believe raising awareness of the value of critical thinking is an overarching goal and the common thread that ties together skeptical groups with different priorities and fields of engagement. I’m asking that question because I think it is important to the skeptic movement as a whole.

    I’m not insisting that you should have the answers. I’m only asking what you would suggest.

    Step 1: Admit that your methods are ineffective, that your foes have only grown in power and influence. That little (no) progress has been made on your goals, none of your foes have been vanquished.

    Step 2: Ask why? Is it a vast confluence of events or some grand conspiracy holding you back? Or is it indicative of a lack of understanding the modern world and a detachment from reality.

    Step 3: Learn from your opponents, using speech that isolates people and isn’t welcoming of outsiders is a giant mistake. I know you think they do this when they insult you, but they are the majority talking about a minority, you do not have this privilege. Even when they are something like CAM, they still outnumber you, have more brand awareness and most people side with them not you. You need to somehow stick to your ideals, but yet speak to everyone, not just insiders that share your specialized language and believe in your narratives.

    I think success is a question of degrees, though we certainly have our work cut out for us and progress is difficult to assess. It’s also a relatively young movement, with many groups having been formed in the 90s and 00s.

    The Good Thinking Society has had great success in ending National Health Service funding for homeopathy and other public funding for pseudo science. Simon Singh delivered a very public black eye to fraudulent health practitioners while effecting change in English defamation law to make it more difficult to defend false claims. The Australian Skeptics have successfully waged a campaign to raise vaccination rates and publicly counter anti-vax propaganda.

    Yes, anecdotes such as these are hardly world-shaking. But they do reflect a method of engagement common to many activist skeptic groups, which is to focus on an issue that actually affects people and publicly confront it from a skeptical perspective. Very few people are interested in philosophical discussions. However, no one wants to be misled, lied to, or taken advantage of, especially when money or health is on the line. These, often regional, issue-oriented engagements provide a venue to introduce and demonstrate the value of evidence-based reason.

    When a friend of mine told me she intended to visit an alternative medicine practitioner to remedy a discomfort I used the opportunity to discuss how she might be best assured she was getting an informed and unbiased diagnosis. She decided to see a doctor and we got to discuss epistemology in a was that was relevant to her.

    Step 4: You should not express biased and offensive views in the articles written by the leaders of your movement, especially not ones referenced on Facebook and other media. Drop the virtue signalling, the borderline identity politics, and preaching to the choir. [Etc.]

    I think that generally applies to and should be avoided by any group.

    However, there are different venues and different roles, and movements do need firebrands and agitators as well as moderates. It may be that we have an over-abundance of the former, though I suspect the moderates often engage stealthily, without even identifying as skeptics.

    Step 5: Study some successful political movements. Focus much more heavily on recruitment. All movements that do not do this are destined to fail much sooner than you would think. In fact some of the most successful movements are just solely focused on increasing their numbers. Learn from petitions, boycotts and other simple movements that have clear simple goals.

    I don’t have a good measure of growth. My anecdotal experience tells me awareness of the “brand” is increasing. I’ve actually encountered people in the wild who identify as skeptics, which I doubt would have happened ten years ago. I also more frequently encounter people online who express ideas in pointedly skeptical terms. It would make sense for skeptical groups to more frequently coordinate outreach initiatives.

  194. Echoon 20 Jul 2017 at 1:19 am

    @chikoppi: I’m not feeling so hot right now, I will try to write a more detailed reply soon when I feel better. I think this latest reply of yours was really good, previously I did say that I wanted to like you, and I think now you demonstrated your skills. You and bachfiend are great and make me regret a lot of what I said. I wish we got here sooner, and we all had more time and patience, granted sure most of that is my fault. My experience here was heavily biased towards the negative messaging I was receiving. We still have clear differences, I object to the scientific pace narratives and the bend towards scientism. Sometimes I think when we want to attract people, we simplify things and gloss over the rough edges. I guess that’s mostly innocent. Either way I think a lot of you have implicit beliefs about the history of science from the growing culture of scientism around you. It seems like in every popular science book I read now there is an obnoxious author who knows nothing about the world outside of his field, lecturing the entire world on how his worldview is perfect and science is everything. It’s like he never heard of the conflict in the middle east, or the billions of people who very much believe in god.

    In reference to the last paragraph in your comment, I would have to say that I don’t know if that is exactly the result of your movement’s efforts. I will say that I’ve noticed scientific language and skeptic-like terminology pop up everywhere, even among new age ideologies. I wouldn’t say this is directly due to your efforts, but just the age we find ourselves in, we have things like the flynn effect that might explain it as well. My parents didn’t used to really care much about computers, and used to insult tech savy people. Now they are all on social media and know so much about technology. I think that might explain some of it too. It also seems like every reliable news article now has multiple authors, relies on confirmation and corroborating details, takes into account multiple perspectives, and in general attempts to provide the reader with informed opinions, not the “truth.” I think this new age of journalism and the death of cronkite- style truth journalism, might have something to do with it too.

  195. chikoppion 20 Jul 2017 at 1:42 am

    @Echo

    Those are fair critiques and I look forward to your further thoughts.

    No need to express regrets where I’m concerned. I certainly came in a little too hot and would have benefitted from demonstrating more respect and patience.

    Feel better.

  196. BillyJoe7on 20 Jul 2017 at 6:43 am

    Echo,

    “I object to…the bend towards scientism”

    Scientism is about as rare as the active ingredient in a homoeopathic potion.
    It exists largely in the minds of new agers and pseudo, anti, and fringe scientists.
    It is part of your massive strawmanning of science, scepticism, and sceptics.

    But here’s hoping you’re on the verge of turning over a new leaf.

  197. Steve Crosson 20 Jul 2017 at 12:56 pm

    Echo,

    It is like Steve Cross’ response where he claims that skepticism is the most effective way of getting literally anything done.

    That is a completely unfair straw man of what I have actually and consistently said. I have said that I believe that skepticism, I.e. evidence based critical thinking, is the most effective tool we have to accurately understand the world. And, as I’ve already said, not necessarily philosophical Truth with a capital ’T’ but certainly for practical day-to-day decision making.

    Read my first posts and try to honestly evaluate them. There is no hint of disrespect or condescension. I’m genuinely trying to understand the point you are making.

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-fragility-of-truth/#comment-349897

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-fragility-of-truth/#comment-349955

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-fragility-of-truth/#comment-349983

    It should also be obvious why it was not clear at all to me whether you even accepted evidence based critical thinking as the correct approach to begin with. You specifically said that you didn’t accept my definition of truth. Which, by the way, you strawmanned into something vastly more comprehensive than my intent. In following posts, I went out of my way to explain that I was talking about practical, day-to-day decisions about how to determine which laws might help, which news is real and which is fake, etc. Which you either didn’t read or just ignored.

    I will say, that once you finally got around to it after multiple requests, your suggestions and critiques were thoughtful and legitimate, although perhaps unnecessary harsh in some cases. You are absolutely correct in that this stuff is difficult and has not been nearly as successful as a thoughtful person would hope.

  198. Echoon 20 Jul 2017 at 2:27 pm

    @chikoppi: Yeah I have an appointment and some testing, depending on how that goes I could be back on my feet in no time, or out of commission for a couple days unable to even read this screen. Regarding the nature of the skeptical movement, you can see from my reply to Billy that there are still WAY too many “skeptics” who are obsessed with ideas which are profoundly against the ideals of skepticism, critical thinking, and science itself. In that case it’s not so much the leaders or official sources that are to blame, but popular science books and common misconceptions presented in the public discourse. I do think it’s problematic when these misconceptions of the nature of scientific inquiry are not addressed inside the community. As long as someone kind of sounds like a skeptic they are not usually corrected by the group. But if someone like me makes grammatical errors or says “gravity waves” oh are they in trouble.

    I also did comment on your ideas about how you find more skeptics in the wild, and how other things can explain that. Just to expand on that, we can also see the rise of science communicators and atheists. A new school of journalism and the impact of social media and the internet on fact checking. That kind of thing has a profound effect on the culture itself, and might contribute to your sense of the skeptical movement making progress. Just like how now every tv show has an openly gay character, but a few decades ago these depictions were uncommon, and rarely realistic or respectful.

    I don’t know if thats exactly due to the successes of LGBT movement and it making progress on it’s goals, but I would guess it can be explained in other terms as well. Lesbian pornography is one of the most popular categories/genres, we are in a culture that reinforces bi-sexuality among women everywhere you look, a new generation growing up in a more accepting culture, the AIDs epidemic and the discovery of treatments etc… These things might also explain the new trends we see in our culture surrounding LGBT issues, better than the efforts of that movement itself. If you also take a broader perspective like this you one, you can see the many negatives. For example, it might not be such a good LGBT-victory that people are into sexualized lesbian stuff. I’m certainly mostly ignorant of the nuance here, and am pretty implicitly heteronormative myself, so I’m certainly borrowing liberally from other people’s thoughts. But they have argued that because sexuality is often based on taboo, these trends might actually increase homophobia out in the real world. Some people might like to watch two beautiful women kiss on tv and in porn, but in the real world you often find those same people using homophobic terms to describe actual individuals. This is like how we like to accuse rednecks(or just random people we don’t like) of getting it on with their family members. Meanwhile right on the front page of every major porn site, you can find a few videos that often have terms like “step-mom” or “‘not’ his mom,” clearly these videos are depicting the idea we like to mock, and given their prominence, production values, and view counts, we can infer it’s not just a tiny subset of the population that is into this fantasy. Some in the trans community have described the surge in that type of content as a victory, others have described it as problematic, because it often ignores many people, for example female to male trans people are still vastly unrepresented and instead the content is biased towards very feminine examples. Once again I apologize if I trampled over some delicate issues, I know very little about this stuff. My point is that if you are in the LGBT community, you can point to same-sex marriage legislation, gay characters on tv, and other things as victories. But as I described those might not be exactly because of your efforts.

    These same principles can be applied to your perception of the skeptical movement’s impact on the world. Many things have changed in the last few decades, you see debates on news shows now every night, multiple perspectives on the same set of facts. This was not the case in the recent past, where lone male authoritative voices spoke the “truth” directly into the camera. I would not describe this as an accomplishment of the skeptical movement, I would say: technological advances, the rise and acceptance of different perspectives like feminism (notice women in those panel discussions now), social media, and globalization have had a much more profound impact. Critical thinking skills are now required to attempt to understand what’s going on in the news. Science is used to figure out what’s going on too, DNA testing, forensic analysis, and other things are mentioned almost everyday in the news. This is even felt inside the alternative medicine industry now, where every author can point to “scientific” trials for support. You see it on tv shows now, where judges try to use a scientific-appearing pretense to judge contestants, with spinning chairs, blindfolds and controls. Suffice it to say, I don’t think the spinning chairs on “The Voice” are due to the skeptical movement’s efforts.

    Now the interesting part, what’s the problem with these trends? Well, scientism for one. Most people who watch CSI or those other forensics shows actually have no idea how the science works, it’s limitations and potential flaws. For example, you don’t automatically go to jail just because of DNA evidence against you. In the court of law you have the ability to defend yourself, there is always some wiggle room to mount a defense, DNA evidence is not flawless, lawyers can challenge the chain of custody of the sample, question if it was acquired using the correct procedures etc. Not all DNA evidence can stand up to this scrutiny, and justifiably so. However, this is often misrepresented in these TV shows, causing people to often come away with overconfidence in the forensic science methods. Or when it is represented in TV, it is often from the narrative of an evil slick lawyer finding a way to get the evidence (“truth”), thrown out. The heroes must then go to great lengths to argue a case that they were certain they knew the “truth” of all along. These shows promote profoundly unscientific narratives, almost to the level of fantasy, but they are beloved by many.

    Another problem with these trends would be an overconfidence in your movement and it’s methods. If it is true that the growing acceptance of “skeptical” ideas is much better explained by other social, cultural and technological phenomena, then aren’t you wrong? As far as I’m concerned the skeptical movement did not oversee the recent revolution in journalism, am I wrong? If I’m not wrong, then the death of “truth” news/journalism had a profound impact on everything in the entire culture.

    @BillyJoe7: re: scientism:

    Scientism is about as rare as the active ingredient in a homoeopathic potion.
    It exists largely in the minds of new agers and pseudo, anti, and fringe scientists.
    It is part of your massive strawmanning of science, scepticism, and sceptics

    These statements indicate an obvious misunderstanding of key concepts. They are pretty typical among people like skeptics, for example atheists also act like this. Previously in this thread Billy you also wrote: “Belief in the paranormal is only possible through ignorance of modern particle physics,” which is in itself a statement quite common among your folk. However it is an example of the kinds of things promoted by scientism.

    Today, scientism in the simplest of terms is when you don’t understand the limits of science. Science does not directly deal with the belief in the paranormal, it doesn’t challenge religious philosophy ideas about the meaning of life, or disprove god. Science might very well tell us a lot, but it doesn’t tell us what we should do when it comes to various things, like the wars in the middle east, religion, how we should treat each other, what show to watch, when to cry, or who we should date.

    If you disagree with the ideas in that paragraph, then you believe in scientism. Note: I did not say god is real, or that paranormal claims can’t be addressed, I said that science doesn’t directly deal with those overarching ideas about the ultimate nature/purpose of reality. For example, science can give you lots of great information about the middle east and it’s peoples, but it cannot tell you which is the best course of action to resolve those crises. In fact many science communicators have given idiotic suggestions that are ignorant of the reality on the ground. In 2016 we witnessed the failure of science to (once again) accurately predict a presidential election outcome. We also watched as a team led by ivy league educated political insiders with access to the most accurate scientific data in the world, billions to burn, elite training, and scientific methodologies guiding their actions; utterly fail to win versus a very unscientific bumbling opponent who sabotaged himself at every turn. In the face of this information, to still claim that science is the best and only system we need, is obviously incorrect, right?

    I’m just scratching the surface here, scientism leads to many other problems. The last one I’ll mention is that it reaches into political discourse. For example, during the election Clinton was fond of mentioning she believed in science… followed by a pause… then she would say of course climate change is real. I also heard many people claim that Trump didn’t believe in science. Period. Hmm is that accurate? Wouldn’t it be strange for a man who doesn’t believe in science to step onto a machine that uses scientific concepts to traverse the skies? Or use a little handheld communications device to talk to people on other continents? So clearly Trump believes in science, just not the scientific ideas that became politicized like climate change. The concept here, and why this relates to scientism, is because this tendency to misrepresent people and simplify them is a central theme in scientism. People who challenge your ideas about science are outcast and laughed at, like how you compared scientism to being as rare as homeopathic ingredients.

    Regarding our obviously false claim that scientism is rare, please go learn about it, and then take a peak at some of the current best sellers in non-fiction science. You will find many authors who make very unscientific claims, like things that echo the anthropic principle or some variant. Sagan’s famous sentiment about how we are the way the universe comes to know itself, is an example of scientism. Whenever you find a science author who rarely spends time outside of academia, lecture on religion you usually find claims that science has disproven or shown the impossibility of god. All of these things are not precisely scientific and fall under the umbrella of scientism.

    cns-alumni.bu.edu/~slehar/Scientism.pdf

    Scientism is the belief that science and its method of skeptical inquiry is the most reliable path to the truth. In fact, most scientists are already believers in scientism, otherwise they would not bother with science, although this belief is usually restricted to the search for physical truth. But there is a more general, all-inclusive form of Scientism ( capitalized here for this meaning ) which is the belief that the methods of science are not only appropriate for discovering physical truths, but also for all other truths, including those traditionally treated in philosophy, ethics and morality, political and cultural philosophy , and the rights and wrongs of human inter action . But the term Scientism is most often used pejoratively, as a contradiction in terms, because the belief in this more general form of Scientism is not itself a scientific conclusion but just a belief , as unprovable as any other belief system. To quote Michael Shermer (skeptic.com/scientism.html ) , ” Scientism … is the self – annihilating view that only scientific claims are meaningful, which is not a scientific claim and hence, if true, not meaningful. Thus, scientism is either false or meaningless .” The key point of my thesis is that yes, I acknowledge that Scientism is a religion, in the sense that it is an initial assumption that seems to make intuitive sense to me, but which I cannot prove beyond a doubt, and the readers should decide for themselves whether or not they find this belief credible. So science can be seen in some sense as the latest generation of religious belief, a belief in the triumph of reason over mysticism, as the most proven and reliable path toward the objective truth.
    (I don’t agree with this author’s work in general, I just find this incapsulates the idea nicely)

    I know you are huge fans of rational wiki so here you go: rationalwiki.org/wiki/Scientism
    Massimo Pigliucci, has often spoke out against Scientism, here is one such example:
    rationallyspeaking.blogspot.ca/2013/08/steven-pinker-embraces-scientism-bad.html

    To continue denying the existence and impact of scientism is a pretty giant fail.

    @Steve Cross: re:

    (Echo): It is like Steve Cross’ response where he claims that skepticism is the most effective way of getting literally anything done.
    (Steve Cross): That is a completely unfair straw man of what I have actually and consistently said. I have said that I believe that skepticism, I.e. evidence based critical thinking, is the most effective tool we have to accurately understand the world. And, as I’ve already said, not necessarily philosophical Truth with a capital ’T’ but certainly for practical day-to-day decision making.

    OH RRRRRLLY? Is that so? Let’s look at the history of your constant misrepresentations and attacks:

    theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-fragility-of-truth/#comment-349983
    (Steve Cross): Feel free to reject the skeptical approach that you so disparage, but you must have an alternative. What is it?… How can you possibly determine which of your other “effective methods” will be likely to be successful if you don’t have a way to evaluate them? Even the determination of “veracity” requires objective evidence.
    (Not once did I say that, my problem is with the skeptical movement, not critical thinking itself. I also answered your bs loaded question multiple times, by describing that likely there is no most effective path to stopping fakenews, we chase down all leads simultaneously. I made SPECIFIC reference to the flaws of your approach by pointing out that there cannot be one most effective solution to complex problems, by highlighting how capitalistic influences and boycotting worked to take down Bill O’Reilly, but it similar approaches failed to work for Hannity and many alternative news websites. The short answer, there is no one most effective or best path.)

    theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-fragility-of-truth/#comment-350100
    (Steve Cross): I actually asked a very straightforward question about the best way to handle “fake news”. Which you have not answered. Oh, you’ve given various hand-wavy bits about how it is too complicated for just one answer, etc. blah, blah, blah …
    (See the above comment by Cross, my analysis be neath, compare and contrast his later comment here with what he said there. Now look at the original quote where he claims he never implied there was a most effective or best path forward. Obviously he’s lying.)

    Re: personal attacks:
    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-fragility-of-truth/#comment-350364
    (Steve Cross): She won’t believe it, but I genuinely feel sorry for Echo and her many alter egos. Regarding the ‘Apparently unemployed’ hypothesis, I can’t help but wonder if she does have problems retaining a job in the scientific fields. Which might explain her newfound antipathy towards “scientism”. Also, my own unqualified*, arm’s-length diagnosis, is that she very well could be somewhat bipolar on top of her other issues. That could explain her sporadic, seemingly manic appearances in the comment section. In any event, I do think she would benefit from some professional counseling. – Disclaimer: I am not in any way associated with the mental health field, so I don’t believe that my comments can be considered as unethical — but I do accept the charge of rudeness. However, I’ve seen the devastating effects of bipolar disorder on a close family friend, and I firmly believe that professional help can be life-saving.
    (When I pointed out these ad hominems and challenged you, YOU SIMPLY DOUBLED DOWN)

    Steve Cross, I’m sorry I have to be the one to tell you this, but you should spend more time reading, less time reacting. I literally explained days ago that your simplistic approach, and your demand for the one best answer to solve a complex problem was highly problematic. I also explained how your argumentative technique depends on demanding answers to poorly crafted questions. You ask questions so loaded with false assumptions and unjustified premises, that they cannot be taken seriously. Since this interaction days ago, you simply followed-through with an inability to learn anything, a rapid descent into personal attacks, before finally crash-landing into an embarrassing commentary on my mental state.

  199. BillyJoe7on 20 Jul 2017 at 3:23 pm

    For a moment there I thought the above post wasn’t going to bottom out. 😀

  200. bachfiendon 20 Jul 2017 at 4:31 pm

    BillyJoe,

    Yes, I was beginning to feel that it was the never-ending story too. Funny Echo thinks that the pollsters who got the results of the last presidential election so wrong were scientists, and their failure was a failure of ‘scientism’.

    Skepticism is the refusal to accept anything as true without evidence. Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence, but absence of evidence for things that there should be evidence is evidence of absence – which is the reason why I’m an atheist (besides religion being basically incoherent).

    If anyone provides adequate evidence that their religion is true, then I’ll reconsider.

  201. chikoppion 20 Jul 2017 at 4:32 pm

    [Echo] Another problem with these trends would be an overconfidence in your movement and it’s methods. If it is true that the growing acceptance of “skeptical” ideas is much better explained by other social, cultural and technological phenomena, then aren’t you wrong? As far as I’m concerned the skeptical movement did not oversee the recent revolution in journalism, am I wrong? If I’m not wrong, then the death of “truth” news/journalism had a profound impact on everything in the entire culture.

    I don’t think either of us are wrong, it’s just a very difficult impact and nuance to measure. I also think it’s fine for the skeptic movement to be one contributor among many to influence trends in a positive direction. The more diversity of positive influence the better.

    I’m not going near questions about porn, gender identity, and social sexualization with a 10′ pole. I appreciate the nuanced consideration, but like you suggest I’m better off deferring to those who have devoted significant attention to the matter!

  202. Steve Crosson 20 Jul 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Echo,

    Whether you believe it or not, I’ve tried to go out of my way to engage fairly and honestly ever since the cozying interactions. But it’s obvious you are still carrying a grudge and can’t get past it. And, to be honest, I’m human and can only take a certain amount of condescension and strawmannirg of my statements before I get annoyed and allow my frustration to show.

    In hindsight, I realize the “bipolar” comment was over the line and I’m sorry. FWIW, we really do have a family friend who is bipolar and her behavior during her manic phases is scarily similar to your exhibited behavior. To make matters worse, she has attempted suicide at least twice during her “low” stages. In any event, my comment may have been well intentioned, but it was inappropriate and I apologize.

    Nevertheless, I really would like to move forward. There is no doubt that you have some interesting things to say when you can calm down and discuss rationally. Your thoughtful comments to chikoppi being a good case in point.

    Please try to think of me as a colleague with whom you have had a serious disagreement. You pretty much have to leave some things in the past to be able to work together in the future. If you haven’t encountered that situation in life yet, you will.

  203. Pete Aon 20 Jul 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Scientism

    QUOTE from RationalWiki [http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Scientism]
    Scientism is the view that only scientific claims are meaningful. It is often widely abused as a term to refer to science and attitudes associated with science, and its primary use these days is as a pejorative.[1]

    The non-pejorative, and therefore boring, sense of the term denotes the “methods and attitudes typical of or attributed to the natural scientist.”[2][3] This meaning is rarely seen in the wild.

    The pejorative sense, in which it is a general-purpose snarl word, is the one you will see in action.[4] This usage seems to date to Friedrich von Hayek’s 1943 essay “Scientism and the Study of Society.”[5] Because the mad scientists are prowling the streets!

    END of QUOTE

    QUOTE from Wikipedia [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientism]
    Scientism is a term generally used to describe the cosmetic application of science in unwarranted situations not covered by the scientific method.

    In philosophy of science, the term “scientism” frequently implies a critique of the more extreme expressions of logical positivism[1][2] and has been used by social scientists such as Friedrich Hayek,[3] philosophers of science such as Karl Popper,[4] and philosophers such as Hilary Putnam[5] and Tzvetan Todorov[6] to describe (for example) the dogmatic endorsement of scientific methodology and the reduction of all knowledge to only that which is measured or confirmatory.[7]

    END of QUOTE — See especially Section 7 Dictionary meanings:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientism#Dictionary_meanings

  204. BillyJoe7on 20 Jul 2017 at 5:23 pm

    Echo,

    “Previously in this thread Billy you also wrote: “Belief in the paranormal is only possible through ignorance of modern particle physics,” which is in itself a statement quite common among your folk. However it is an example of the kinds of things promoted by scientism”

    That is simply the non-controversial conclusion of particle physicists.
    Particle physicists know that they know all the particles and forces that could possibly affect our everyday lives. In other words, there are no particles and forces through which paranormal phenomena could possibly act. Therefore the study of the paranormal is a futile effort and a waste of human resources. The field is dead meat.
    This is not scientism.
    This is science.

  205. Steve Crosson 20 Jul 2017 at 6:40 pm

    Personally, I think that scientism is pretty much the literal equivalent of “fake news”. In other words, it is a word used by critics when they don’t like the real news, i.e. the discoveries of science.

  206. BillyJoe7on 21 Jul 2017 at 12:43 am

    Exho,

    “Today, scientism in the simplest of terms is when you don’t understand the limits of science”

    And it’s also a pejorative blurted out by those who do not know what the limits of modern science actually are. To repeat, the paranormal is already excluded because physicists know what those limits are.

    “Science does not directly deal with the belief in the paranormal”

    False. Modern particle physics has paranormal dead in the water.

    “it doesn’t challenge religious philosophy ideas about the meaning of life”

    It excludes an afterlife, and religion without the promise of an afterlife is not something any but a fringe minority want to believe in.

    “or disprove god”

    Which god? Define your god. Science will have disconfirmatory evidence for any particular god you might define except a deistic god – which a vanishing minority of theists believe in.

    “Science might very well tell us a lot, but it doesn’t tell us what we should do when it comes to various things, like the wars in the middle east, religion, how we should treat each other, what show to watch, when to cry, or who we should date”

    Science can have many things to say on all those topics but, because of their complex nature, another level of abstraction is necessary for any conclusions we might come to.

    “If you disagree with the ideas in that paragraph, then you believe in scientism”

    Obviously, you will need to do better than that.

    One of your links or quotes distinguishes “scientism” from “Scientism”, but all that does is equate “scientism” with “science” (ie there is no such thing as “scientism”), and relegate “Scientism” to something that is as rare as that active ingredient in a homoeopathic nostrum.

  207. Nidwinon 21 Jul 2017 at 4:35 am

    “(Bachfiend):Skepticism is the refusal to accept anything as true without evidence. ”

    Personally, nothing against you Bachfiend, but I prefer to never accept anything as true and it doesn’t matter the evidence brought forward. As a non-believer I just evaluate the evidence and see if I can live, go on with it or not, till I reevaluate the stuff again.

    As an example I don’t care if the placebo effect exist or not. It may have an added value, a plus 0.01 whatever, but at the end of the day what matters is what works, clearly helps and what does clearly not. If tomorrow there’s some positive evidence that placebo clearly helps with lower backpain, migraines and depresssions I will reevaluate my position but till then it’s a no go. I don’t accept the placebo effect, I consider it pointless and useles at this point in time.

    Evidence can be completely wrongly assessed and/or interpreted that’s why we always have to reevalute everything we know, all the time and never accept something being true or false.

    @Echo
    Scientism is often used as an insult, this of course doesn’t mean that there aren’t peeps out guilty of promoting/doing it. As you mentioned the LGBT community/movement where you have an x amount of elitist,intollerant arses and bitches (experience from an ace here) you have assholes amongst the Academia guilty of scientism.

  208. bachfiendon 21 Jul 2017 at 7:09 am

    Nidwin,

    ‘I prefer to never accept anything as true and it doesn’t matter the evidence brought forward. As a non-believer I just evaluate the evidence and see if I can live, go on with it or not, till I re-evaluate the stuff again’.

    Aren’t you contradicting yourself?

  209. BillyJoe7on 21 Jul 2017 at 7:11 am

    bachfiend and Nidwin,

    I prefer a positive statement about scepticism:
    Scepticism is accepting everything in proportion to the evidence.

    There is, of course, a hidden negative. For example, my acceptance of homoeopathy is zero.

  210. Nidwinon 21 Jul 2017 at 8:15 am

    bachfiend,

    how so, about contradicting myself?
    I don’t see any contradiction in what I’ve writted, but that could be me of course.

  211. BillyJoe7on 21 Jul 2017 at 8:58 am

    bachfiend and Nidwin,

    You are interpreting the word “true” differently.
    Absolutely true v true to a degree.
    Other than that, the two of you seem to be in agreement.

  212. chikoppion 21 Jul 2017 at 9:37 am

    I think belief, knowledge, and evidence are separate categories.

    Belief need not be dichotomous, either/or. It can be conditional or proportional in that something can be tenuously accepted.

    Evidence informs Bayesian reasoning and is useful in adjusting the threshold for belief, based on the quality of evidence and prior likelihood of a claim being true.

    If you tell me you have a cat I’m likely to believe you without the presentation of evidence. If you tell me you have a cat that is 60 years old that would conflict with my priors and I’m going to need evidence before I accept your claim, even tenuously.

    I’m a little less absolute with respect to knowledge claims and non-existence (proving negatives). Though cumbersome in conversation, it might be better to express things as being exceedingly unreasonable to believe due to lack of positive evidence and abundance of conflicting priors.

    The scientific method is extremely useful in establishing evidence, but evidence itself is only one factor in the equation.

  213. Pete Aon 21 Jul 2017 at 9:58 am

    Here’s the guide I use…

    +100% true: e.g., 1 + 1 = 2
    0%: I have no idea / don’t know.
    −100% true: i.e. 100% false, e.g., 1 + 1 = 3

    The Sun is 93 million miles from Earth. That’s not 100% true, but it’s easy to remember and it’s near enough to the truth as an approximation. In other words, the statement is much nearer to 100% true than it is to −100% true (100% false).

  214. Lal McLennanon 10 Sep 2017 at 4:08 am

    So, I am doing some independent exploration, trying to gain insight into an in-law who is strongly invested in the anti-vaccination movement, and I found myself here.
    It is amazing how much has been said just between the13th and 21st July. Obviously there are longstanding arguments between posters that have fuelled these outpourings and the many personal asides. I am surprised at the continuing and detailed engagement of the participants. While it is certainly a good illustration of the difficulty in convincing anyone to change their point of view by argument, I am fascinated by the relationship between the debaters.
    At first I thought perhaps some of the dissenters could be cynical trolls but clearly some at least, such as echo, are very committed to their points of view. Despite the frustration evident in many posts there is a refusal to exclude anyone from taking part in discussion. Perhaps this is derived from a commitment among the blog followers to the principle of arguing dispassionately although I believe that it may be a factor that some personalities are typically attracted to highly detailed thinking on specific topics. Perhaps, in regard to the social classification of many followers of this blog which one person pointed out , this is simply the kindness of older medical professionals which is not often acknowledged.
    I am drawn to echo’s energy and enthusiasm though not so much the arguments. Most likely this is limited to the online domain, and I think echo has been brave in describing some personal problems, but I hope that these arguments don’t spill over too much into life outside. In my in-law’s family there has been much conflict and permanent alienation. Ordinary people in the everyday world do not happily deal with such prolonged and intense argument.
    Well, I have learned from you all. I wish you well. Please continue to defend integrity and reason. It can obviously be a very long and difficult task.

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