Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

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Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post Number:#1  Postby Roel » November 1st, 2016, 10:25 am

I see many very good debunkings and videos by sceptics in all kinds of subjects, and I consider them as intelligent, critical people. However I see an attitude to want to debunk everything, even if it's possible that something is actually real. A good example is the 4chan murderer of which people first thought he was acting with his girlfriend, until the police discovered her body in his house.

There is also the "Bible code" theory which, although not giving full proof is very convincing, but if you consider all instances in which the prediction comes true as cpincidence, how can yoh eved prove it to be true?

If you have a bias that something is fake, can you still be a good sceptic?
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Are sceptics sometimes irrational?



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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post Number:#2  Postby Alec Smart » November 5th, 2016, 4:07 pm

Roel wrote:I see many very good debunkings and videos by sceptics in all kinds of subjects, and I consider them as intelligent, critical people. However I see an attitude to want to debunk everything, even if it's possible that something is actually real. A good example is the 4chan murderer of which people first thought he was acting with his girlfriend, until the police discovered her body in his house.

There is also the "Bible code" theory which, although not giving full proof is very convincing, but if you consider all instances in which the prediction comes true as cpincidence, how can yoh eved prove it to be true?

If you have a bias that something is fake, can you still be a good sceptic?

If you adopt the policy of not believing anything, you will be right more than 50% of the time. That's my opinion, although I'm not completely sure I trust it.
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post Number:#3  Postby gimal » November 5th, 2016, 10:32 pm

Everyone is irrational- mathematics science philosophy every thing according to the poet.
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post Number:#4  Postby Spiral Out » November 14th, 2016, 7:25 am

Skepticism is a healthy way to view the world. The moderate to strict skeptic will be more protected against scams, etc.

Of course, however, taking it to a level where it interferes with one's functional interaction with the world would be counterproductive.

There's no harm in doubting and questioning things that seem even slightly off.
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post Number:#5  Postby Renee » November 15th, 2016, 11:33 pm

Roel wrote:If you have a bias that something is fake, can you still be a good sceptic?


Skepticism in my opinion is a false prophesy. There is no such thing as a good skeptic... because it is automatically a guaranteed "win" to be a skeptic. No skills are required, if you are philosophically inclined, to be a skeptic of any kind. In other words, a bad skeptic is just as good as a good skeptic.

Skepticism thrives on "nothing can be proven", and it is actually one of the tenets of science, that no theory can be proven to be true, they can only be disproven.

So a skeptic always wins. At least from a scientific philosophical angle. If the skeptic can't prove something wrong, the skeptic still does have the philosophical right to not believe the story or theory, on the strength that "it's not proven".

Skeptics are a dying breed, actually. Much like Est Seminar Managers, Mensans, Married Swingers, Masons, Mimeographers, and Mimics.
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post Number:#6  Postby ChanceIsChange » December 25th, 2016, 5:28 am

Renee wrote:No skills are required, if you are philosophically inclined, to be a skeptic of any kind.


Isn’t it that philosophical inclination which is one of the most important qualities of a thoughtful person? This inclination can be enhanced by philosophical discussions which require certain skills, and an enhanced philosophical inclination in turn helps develop those skills further. However, there are skills that are not very useful in my opinion. For example, it might require great skill to understand and develop an obsolete scientific theory, but the effort is wasted nonetheless. On the other hand, it would have been much easier and more fruitful to doubt that scientific theory and invest in a different one instead.

Furthermore, it is not true that no skills are required to be a true (not "good") skeptic. For instance, a very powerful weapon of a skeptic is to doubt the Law of Identity, which can be used to doubt (almost) everything:

Dogmatist: … Thus, we have shown that A is true.

Skeptic: Even if A is true, who says that A implies A and that, therefore, A is true?

Though that weapon might seem very easy to wield, I do not think that it is a trivial matter for someone to be ready to wield it or even to be aware of its existence.


Renee wrote:So a skeptic always wins.


Well, that does sound promising and makes skepticism quite attractive. Nonetheless, I doubt that a skeptic always wins (and also that he or she doesn't).

-- Updated December 25th, 2016, 1:04 pm to add the following --

ChanceIsChange wrote:However, there are skills that are not very useful in my opinion.


I have to correct myself. I thought the fact that a skeptic can defeat most other philosophers even if they have more skills implies that many of those skills are useless. Now, however, I see that the skeptic's advantage does not show the other philosophers' skills to be useless (I now think that there is no such thing as a useless skill), but rather that they have been at least partially wasted. For instance, if Tycho Brahe had doubted the Geocentric model more, he could have used his astronomical skills to develop the Heliocentric model further instead of coming up with a complicated but incorrect hybrid of the two models. Doubt does not show Brahe's skills to be useless, but it could have liberated them for something more useful. Another example is that by doubting the impossibility of time travel, one is more probable to come up with an innovative science fiction work about time travel, which may inspire the invention of a time machine in the future.
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post Number:#7  Postby Eduk » December 26th, 2016, 7:24 am

I think much of this discussion boils down to how you define a skeptic.
1. a person inclined to question or doubt accepted opinions
2. an ancient or modern philosopher who denies the possibility of knowledge, or even rational belief, in some sphere.
3. A skeptic is one who prefers beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid to ones that are comforting or convenient, and therefore rigorously and openly applies the methods of science and reason to all empirical claims, especially their own. A skeptic provisionally proportions acceptance of any claim to valid logic and a fair and thorough assessment of available evidence, and studies the pitfalls of human reason and the mechanisms of deception so as to avoid being deceived by others or themselves. Skepticism values method over any particular conclusion.
4. Insert your own definition here?

I personally put myself in the 3 camp, and when I hear the term skeptic this is naturally what I imagine (due to my own bias).

So in answer to the question "are skeptics sometimes irrational". If I belong to camp
1. Yes this is fallacious thinking. Doubting accepted positions because they are accepted is irrational.
2. This is slightly more complex than the above. It follows sound logic that you can't KNOW anything and is instrumental in the scientific method where theories are called theories and are open at all time to correction and change. Personally I think you can take this idea too far into the realms of irrationality. It really depends on the specific conclusions you draw from this theory. For example I think it's irrational to say you can't prove God because you can't prove anything. This is circular logic.
3. Of course skeptics can hold irrational beliefs, just like everyone else, no one is perfect. In fact the skeptical position takes into account your own irrationality and attempts to correct as best as possible.

So if you are talking about positions 1 and 2, then I basically agree they are (or can be) irrational and are not reasonable grounds on which to contradict many things. But if you are talking about position 3 then I would argue that's the most rational position that it is possible to hold.
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post Number:#8  Postby Fooloso4 » December 26th, 2016, 1:31 pm

Roel:

However I see an attitude to want to debunk everything, even if it's possible that something is actually real. A good example is the 4chan murderer of which people first thought he was acting with his girlfriend, until the police discovered her body in his house.


I am not familiar with the case but do not understand where you think irrational skepticism fits in. If someone was skeptical of the claim that he was acting with his girlfriend and it turns out he wasn’t because she was dead, then those who were skeptical were right. This, however, tells us nothing about why they were skeptical or whether their reasons for being skeptical were rational.

There is also the "Bible code" theory which, although not giving full proof is very convincing, but if you consider all instances in which the prediction comes true as cpincidence, how can yoh eved prove it to be true?


Skepticism ranges from not being convinced to flat out denial. There is nothing in this case to suggest that it is irrational to reject the theory. You may find it convincing but others do not. Not being convinced of a questionable claim is not irrational. Denial is not necessarily irrational if one has good reason to deny something. If you are referring to the article published by the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, a more recent article was critical of and rejected the findings of the original. Of course the authors of the original article have refuted the refutation and back and forth. The criticisms were not based on predictions being true by coincidence. The criticisms were based on the variations found in different extant early texts and methodological problems.

If you have a bias that something is fake, can you still be a good sceptic?


Yes. A problem arises only when one’s bias prevents them from looking at the evidence and evaluating it objectively.
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post Number:#9  Postby Socrates Tea » December 29th, 2016, 12:39 pm

Maybe a skeptic is someone who makes only falsifiable statement and tries to prove them all wrong.

But, there is an art to it, because when something is fascinating, it's fascinating, and if you just go around smashing rare exhibits with a hammer to prove they are false...

It something like, "to destroy without damaging."
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post Number:#10  Postby Renee » December 29th, 2016, 10:27 pm

Socrates Tea wrote:Maybe a skeptic is someone who makes only falsifiable statement and tries to prove them all wrong.

But, there is an art to it, because when something is fascinating, it's fascinating, and if you just go around smashing rare exhibits with a hammer to prove they are false...

It something like, "to destroy without damaging."

Untruths, ab ovo, ought not to be fascinating to philosophers.

You just touched upon the ultimate bane of the Quixotic fight I wage against my philosophical debating partners on this site. When someone finds a god-concept fascinating, and their consideration is impervious to all the reasons in the world, then skepticism is incapable of showing the way to the truth.
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post Number:#11  Postby ChanceIsChange » December 31st, 2016, 12:32 pm

Renee wrote:Untruths, ab ovo, ought not to be fascinating to philosophers.


If you are a philosopher who is only interested in amassing a hoard of (supposedly) true propositions, then yes, untruths ought not to be fascinating to you. But if you are a philosopher who wants to go deeper and further, then you will have to ask the following questions and more:

1) Is truth prior to being, is being prior to truth, or is neither prior to the other?
2) If being is prior to truth, then what is truth?
3) Is there something prior to truth, and if yes, what is it and how is it prior to truth?
4) Is truth objective or subjective?
5) Is there something beyond the dichotomy of truth and falsehood, and if yes, what?
6) Why is truth so fundamental to our thinking?

These questions will necessarily lead you to contemplate things before and/or beyond truth (e.g. to answer the second part of question 5). Also, if the answer to question 4 is “subjective” or if you cannot answer that question (yet), you may have to deal with what you are not sure to be objectively true.

Let us now consider a real-world example of why fascination with the (possibly or supposedly) untrue is not only a self-purpose justified by the beauty of some concepts, but also very useful for progress. Before the discovery and subsequent experimental evidence for general relativity, it was widely believed that space is Euclidean. Non-Euclidean geometry would consequently have been considered untrue. However, that did not bother some mathematicians whose fascination with the pure concept of non-Euclidean geometry motivated their work in that field regardless of whether actual space is Euclidean or not. That fascination had very fortunate consequences, for hadn’t it been for those mathematicians’ work on non-Euclidean geometry, Einstein could not have developed his general theory of relativity, from which it follows that actual space is non-Euclidean, contrary to earlier beliefs. The latter would ultimately prove to be correct and now is a main pillar of contemporary physics, arguably the most important intellectual discipline for scientific and technological progress.


Renee wrote:When someone finds a god-concept fascinating, and their consideration is impervious to all the reasons in the world, then skepticism is incapable of showing the way to the truth.


But to have a dogmatic conviction runs against the principles of skepticism.

Talking about fascination, fascination with a God-concept can spur on our thinking. For example, considering the omnipotence paradox forces us to think outside the box of logic. That positive effect is independent of whether or not there actually is an omnipotent entity.

If there is truth (and that is by no means certain), then skepticism is very good at showing the way to it because a skeptic refuses to accept dogmata which are obstacles on the road to truth. For example, if nobody had doubted the geocentric model and ancient creation myths, would we have the scientifically very useful and important theories of modern cosmology and evolution?
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post Number:#12  Postby Mark1955 » December 31st, 2016, 3:16 pm

Many years ago someone suggested to me "If someone tells you something ask them 'Why' six times. If they are still making sense after that they are probably telling you what they understand to be the truth. Selecting the number 6 is irrational but I find it works.
If you think you know the answer you probably don't understand the question.
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post Number:#13  Postby Papus79 » April 29th, 2017, 10:51 am

I think the trend here is that once something become a social 'thing', such as skeptic becoming Skeptic (TM) is when it gets vulgar and instead of being a well-utilized sense quite as often ends up with all kinds of people riding the brand name for social prestige.

Skepticism still seems like a critical tool because if you stop examining the facts and how they relate to one another you'll easily fall into the comfort zone of being in one political tribe or the other. On one hand you might have more friends and be easier to get along with that way but if you really have a thirst for the truth you'll be both left dry and also have the nagging question in your mind as to whether where you've chosen to rest on your laurels is presenting a moral good for either you or the people around you.
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post Number:#14  Postby Moreno » May 2nd, 2017, 5:50 am

Alec Smart wrote:
Roel wrote:I see many very good debunkings and videos by sceptics in all kinds of subjects, and I consider them as intelligent, critical people. However I see an attitude to want to debunk everything, even if it's possible that something is actually real. A good example is the 4chan murderer of which people first thought he was acting with his girlfriend, until the police discovered her body in his house.

There is also the "Bible code" theory which, although not giving full proof is very convincing, but if you consider all instances in which the prediction comes true as cpincidence, how can yoh eved prove it to be true?

If you have a bias that something is fake, can you still be a good sceptic?

If you adopt the policy of not believing anything, you will be right more than 50% of the time. That's my opinion, although I'm not completely sure I trust it.

I wasn't sure if you are playing around or not here. I think we can conclude that you do not have this policy, despite the disclaimer. I mean, why assert the 50% thing in the first place? And by what kind of testing does on arrive at that conclusion? The one you may or may not hold.
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post Number:#15  Postby Togo1 » May 2nd, 2017, 5:51 am

Being a 'good' sceptic as opposed to a poor one is matter of value judgement, so a lot depends on what you're trying to achieve. One possible approach is to contrast constructive scepticism with destructive scepticism. A constructive sceptic is still trying to doubt a particular argument, but the point is to kick the tires, examine the construction and generally work out how well it stands up, and what assumptions it is ultimately based on. The idea is to come away with a better arguement, or failing that, an understanding of how the existing argument is put together.

A destructive sceptic is one who is trying to tear down an argument because they don't like it, or from some sense of personal heroism. The aim is to discredit a particular line of inquiry, usually so that some other, unexamined, position can take it's place.
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