'Skeptics': Those without Answers.

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'Skeptics': Those without Answers.

Post Number:#1  Postby Abiathar » May 10th, 2008, 5:03 pm

I find, often, in our little discussions, that those whom often claim the term Skeptic also seem to, invariably, have no evidence, proof, logical correlations or any parallel as to their claim that something is false. This is odd to me, namely due to the fact that what they are expecting of the other is for them to give all of the evidence, and they attempt to understand and piece it together after the fact so that they might 'nay-say' again.

This is not how this works

Skeptics often claim science as their backing, yet never appear to give any scientific data to the contrary. If science is truly your standpoint, then should you not have to argue in the ways of science? A theory is true until disproven with empyrical data. If you fail to provide empyrical data, your skeptism is basically moot and simply for show.

Skeptism is very 'popular' around Philosophy forums and chat sites, because a few greeks claimed that it was the only way to truly discover truth. The problem is that often most do not truly understand what it means to be a skeptic, and will question everything including common sense, and even go so far as to make claims that something is not true even though they have no evidence to the contrary... this was never supposed to be how skeptism worked.

So tell me...

Skeptics, more often than naught, are simply claiming skeptism to feel as if they 'belong' and hoping that it makes their refutes hold more weight... or is it simply that skeptism has changed since the ideal was created?

Again, I do not mean everyone, I know a few true skeptics... well, one on these boards thus far.
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Post Number:#2  Postby pjkeeley » May 11th, 2008, 4:22 am

I find, often, in our little discussions, that those whom often claim the term Skeptic also seem to, invariably, have no evidence, proof, logical correlations or any parallel as to their claim that something is false.

You can't definitively prove that something is false, you can only show that it doesn't appear to be true (though you can't prove definitively that something is true either, but that is another discussion). To elaborate: if something is considered true, it is because it is a reality, that is, it is real or describes something that exists or occurs in reality, by definition. Anything that is real could thus be proven by having someone show it or demonstrate it to others; this would be reliable evidence that it is true. However, if something is not a reality (something false), how can we demonstrate it or any aspect of it? By definition it does not exist or occur in reality. This is why nothing can ever be shown to be false: a false thing by definition cannot be shown. The most we can say is that no one has demonstrated it to exist or occur in reality.

This though is more than mere scepticism. To be a sceptic is simply to doubt a belief in things that have not been properly shown or demonstrated to exist or occur. It is an assumption on the part of the sceptic that the belief is thus false. Whether or not that assumption is reasonable depends on whether or not you believe the thing in question, but this is not up to science to decide. Science can only deal in things which can be shown to be true. This is because science works only by making claims that are falsifiable. That is, there is some conceivable way to prove that the thing is false. Let's take an obvious example, the theory of gravity. The theory of gravity could be shown to be false if one day everyone started floating around in pure weightlessness. If this were to happen then the theory would have to be revised to show why, on that particular day, gravity did not appear to be working.

The problem comes when unfalsifiable claims are made. The existence of a god or gods is an example of unfalsifiable claim; there is no conceivable way it could be proven false. Anyone who does believe in a god or gods will realise this. If you can think of a way that the existence of a god or gods could be proven false somehow, by all means speak up. But there is none. It is an unfalsifiable belief. Many beliefs that sceptics are doubtful about are also unfalsifiable or extremely difficult to prove false: the afterlife, ghosts, UFOs, and so on. If a sceptic says that these things have never been shown to happen or to exist, a believer will simply retort that this does not mean that they don't happen or exist.

It is thus unreasonable to require proof that something is false, and this is why we say that the onus is on the person stating a claim to prove that it is true. If something is false then there is no part of reality that we can point to and say "there! see! it doesn't happen!" or "there, look! it doesn't exist!" -- because by definition a false thing isn't there or isn't happening, and can't be shown.

I hope you are less confused about what scepticism is and why providing evidence that something is false is technically impossible.
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Post Number:#3  Postby Abiathar » May 11th, 2008, 1:45 pm

After 8 years of intensive study in theology and philosophy, I believe I have a decent definition of Skeptism. In this I'd like to ask you to read some of the older works of many Greek Skeptics, not just their quotes.
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Post Number:#4  Postby Scott » May 11th, 2008, 8:16 pm

Ironically, too much skepticism often leads to faith--as least that's what I think. For example, doesn't it seem that science is doubted most by religious people?

I assume too much skepticism leads to faith as a way of avoiding nihilism.

It seems to me that Abiathar is making the point that too much skepticism can lead to faith. Namely, it seems to me that Abiathar is saying that one who is very skeptical of a certain idea sometimes becomes assumptive of its antithesis. Assuming that I am correct that that is what Abiathar means, then that is a useful and accurate insight.

Much of what pjkeeley says is what I would have said about the issue. Namely, I am skeptical of any claim that is made without evidence. Allegedly possible claims that are unfalsifiable also seem unbelievable to me and I am skeptical of them, namely because there would be many other allegedly possible alternatives which are just as likely since it is unfalsifiable. That is not irrational because that type of skepticism is merely rating the believability of various claims based on the evidence of them and the various other possibilities. That type of non-irrational skepticism is marked by the use of tentative claims such as are used in science. In other words, the scientist does not does not believe in the validity of his theory religiously, but believes in it tentatively. Unlike someone who believes in it religiously, when the scientist comes into new, contradicting information he will reformulate his hypotheses, theories, and factual beliefs based on that new information. This is how science and reason are compatible with certain types of skepticism.

Skepticism can refer to many standpoints and philosophies. For example, epistemological skepticism generally refers to a philosophical view about the nature of knowledge and people's ability to have actual knowledge; But a person who is skeptical of a certain religion may hold completely different views than the average epistemological skeptic. I maintain that the reasonableness and consistency of a skeptical view varies depending on that which the skeptic is skeptical. For example, it is different for one to be skeptical of a guy claiming he saw a ghost than for someone to be skeptical that the sky is blue.

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Post Number:#5  Postby anarchyisbliss » May 11th, 2008, 8:47 pm

Also, some claims may be true even without evidence. So I think it's best to wait until evidence is found before one starts dismissing claims as false.
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Post Number:#6  Postby pjkeeley » May 12th, 2008, 1:15 am

Also, some claims may be true even without evidence. So I think it's best to wait until evidence is found before one starts dismissing claims as false.

It is certainly correct that claims may be true without evidence to support them, but how are we to know whether they might just as likely be found false? If there is absolutely nothing that qualifies as evidence at all, as in some unfalsifiable claims, then even the faintest probability of whether the claim is true or false is unknown. In these cases, I believe the reverse of your conclusion could be argued: it's best to wait until evidence is found before one starts promoting the claim as true.
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Post Number:#7  Postby anarchyisbliss » May 12th, 2008, 3:02 pm

It is certainly correct that claims may be true without evidence to support them, but how are we to know whether they might just as likely be found false? If there is absolutely nothing that qualifies as evidence at all, as in some unfalsifiable claims, then even the faintest probability of whether the claim is true or false is unknown. In these cases, I believe the reverse of your conclusion could be argued: it's best to wait until evidence is found before one starts promoting the claim as true.


I didn't mean for it to sound like that. I meant one shouldn't just automatically throw away a claim because there has yet to be evidence found about it; after all it could be true and it might be extremely important and if it is tossed in the garbage then one might miss out an an important finding. However, I think you should always be wary of a claim and not just automatically assume that it's true either.
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Post Number:#8  Postby pjkeeley » May 13th, 2008, 1:46 am

Agreed.
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Post Number:#9  Postby anarchyisbliss » May 13th, 2008, 9:22 am

thank you
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Post Number:#10  Postby Carbon » May 18th, 2008, 3:19 pm

I'm several minutes new to the forum, so I'm not entirely sure how things work here. But if you don't mind, I'd like to toss something else into the discussion. Perhaps skeptics are more keen on being skeptical because it is easier. Tearing the house down is easier than building it up.
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Post Number:#11  Postby La Nausée » May 19th, 2008, 1:03 am

I'm new too, so i'm in the same boat. I think you're right in some ways Carbon, it is easier to a skeptic, becuase instead of being the one who creates a theory or philosophical idea, you can be the one to criticise them, without being open to much criticism yourself.

David Hume springs to mind. He pointed out the flaws in so many mainly theistic thinkers' philosophies, but never really contributed to anything in terms of ethics or answering (or postulating) the question of why we're here (in my opinion the two most important aspects of philosophy). however, he did contribute heavily in terms of pointing out some very obvious flaws in theists like Aquinas' work.

But, as people have mentioned, the skeptic can often be a victim of his own skepicism - Hume rejected any philosophical assertion that was not analytically or synthetically true. i.e. the statement 'God exists' is meaningless as you cannot prove it in analytic terms (i.e. 2+2=4 is analytically true) nor can you prove it synthetically (with physical evidence) as God is a transcendant, external being. However, if Hume's assertion is true then one is forced to reject scientific statements also like 'all water boils at 100 degrees' as one would have to boil all the water in the world to sythetically prove this. this is obviously obsurd.

His empiricism is also self nulifying as he cannot analytically or syntheically prove that his own assertions are true or verifiable.

this is an example of skepticism taken too far, as ultimately, nothing in philosophy can be proven, or disproven. what i mean by this is that skepic that says, 'God does not exist as there is no evidence' is just as dogmatic as the theist that says hat God does exist, and I have evidence' - a quote that sums this up quite nicely is, "man cannot pass beyond human subjectivity".... (Sartre... So in my opinion skepticism has its place, in so far as it encourages people to question their faith or their philosophies... but too much skepticism will lead a person into an endless regress of unanswered questions, and does not ultimately inspire anyone into developing their own ideas about why they are here, or what sort of ethics they wish to live by.
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Post Number:#12  Postby nameless » May 20th, 2008, 11:46 pm

Carbon wrote:Perhaps skeptics are more keen on being skeptical because it is easier. Tearing the house down is easier than building it up.

Actually, it takes more energy to exercise critical thought then to simply accept the spoon-fed concensual agendized corporatized crap that is slung in our direction every moment. Don't worry, just believe what WE tell you is the 'truth', and 'reality' and you'll pretty much be guaranteed access to our money and sex...
Anything accepted without investigation and question might give you a warm and accepted feeling; going into a church and telling them how much you looooove Jeeeeesus! All warm and fuzzy. And thats fine for many. It fills needs. Sacrificing cerebral activity for emotional comfort, or perhaps there are many minds simply not capable of critical thought. They certainly dont teach it in public school!
Others find validation of their skepticism in every 'lie' exposed, and every subsequent new more 'realistic' world-view, a 'greater' perspective.

Any good philosopher is a skeptic. Everything must fit into logic order and have rational clearly presented evidence of foundational concepts. Philosophy is predominately, it seems, definitions. Nothing merely 'accepted' because mom said it's that way. Perhaps that works for the specific emoindividual, but it don't evolve human society. Maintaining the status quo (not questioning) would have us still dying from toothaches!

Easier to be skeptical? Hahahaha, try it sometime, get some stretch-marks on your brain and then tell us how easy critical thought is. Learn it and try it first, then tell us..
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Re: 'Skeptics': Those without Answers.

Post Number:#13  Postby nameless » May 20th, 2008, 11:56 pm

Abiathar wrote:Again, I do not mean everyone, I know a few true skeptics... well, one on these boards thus far.

You rant about 'skeptics' (in general) and finally admitted that your data set is just one person, here.

I was so tempted to delete this since I learned that I misread your OP. I recant regarding my complaining about your 'data pool of one'. Mea culpa.

Perhaps you might do a little research into what, exactly is skepticism/zeteticism. Your emotional 'rant' showed that you really do not know.
The content of your post indicates further, that it is obviously easier not to engage in critical thought, due to the many cognitive flaws in the 'reasoning' displayed in your OP.

Easier to be skeptical? Hahahaha, try it sometime, learn to think critically and logically, get some stretch-marks on your brain, and then tell us how easy critical thought is. I predict that your song will be a bit different.
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Last edited by nameless on May 21st, 2008, 2:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post Number:#14  Postby nameless » May 21st, 2008, 12:03 am

La Nausée wrote:I'm new too, so i'm in the same boat. I think you're right in some ways Carbon, it is easier to a skeptic, becuase instead of being the one who creates a theory or philosophical idea, you can be the one to criticise them, without being open to much criticism yourself.

David Hume springs to mind. He pointed out the flaws in so many mainly theistic thinkers' philosophies, but never really contributed

One needn't 'contribute' anything but the razor. Slice away the lies and only truth can remain.
Truth can't be 'created', merely exposed. Capisce'?
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Post Number:#15  Postby mike » May 21st, 2008, 12:33 am

abuthar wrote, "..... will question everything including common sense." So Abutar, who defines "common sense"? --there's defenitely some areas you left gray.
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