I have seen pseudoskepticism running rampant on ATS lately. While I am not a long standing member and I admittedly have no idea if this is a newer
phenomenon around ATS or if it's been present from the start (I suspect the latter), I have noticed that pseudoskepticism pervades every single topic
of this site. It doesn't matter if it's UFOs, religion, or government conspiracies, pseudoskepticism seems to pop up in most threads.
Lets start by defining what pseudoskepticism
In 1987 Marcello Truzzi revived the term specifically for arguments which use scientific-sounding language to disparage or refute given beliefs,
theories, or claims, but which in fact fail to follow the precepts of conventional scientific skepticism. He argued that scientific skepticism is
agnostic to new ideas, making no claims about them but waiting for them to satisfy a burden of proof before granting them validity. Pseudoskepticism,
by contrast, involves "negative hypotheses"—theoretical assertions that some belief, theory, or claim is factually wrong—without satisfying the
burden of proof that such negative theoretical assertions would require.
Truzzi attributed the following characteristics to pseudoskeptics:
1: Denying, when only doubt has been established
2: Double standards in the application of criticism
3: The tendency to discredit rather than investigate
4: Presenting insufficient evidence or proof
5: Assuming criticism requires no burden of proof
6: Making unsubstantiated counter-claims
7: Counter-claims based on plausibility rather than empirical evidence
8: Suggesting that unconvincing evidence provides grounds for completely dismissing a claim
Now admittedly, I have been guilty of a few of these over the course of my time here in various arguments on various subjects. But what does Truzzi
identify as the traits of a "true" skeptic? They are as follows:
1: Acceptance of doubt when neither assertion nor denial has been established
2: No burden of proof to take an agnostic position
3: Agreement that the corpus of established knowledge must be based on what is proved, but recognising its incompleteness
4: Even-handedness in requirement for proofs, whatever their implication
5: Accepting that a failure of a proof in itself proves nothing
6: Continuing examination of the results of experiments even when flaws are found
What we can see by reading the two lists is that in general, a pseudoskeptic will approach a subject with their mind already made up, and will often
not even bother to review the body of evidence before declaring the subject to be a load of bunk. I see this ALL THE TIME on ATS.
Earlier today, I was reading one of my favorite news sites when I came across this article:
What is unhealthy skepticism?
I would urge ALL ATS members to read the article in full, and see if you can point out how many times you have seen these tactics used here. But not
only that, how many times have you
used them? Are you or were you aware of the term "pseudo skepticism" and if so, are you aware that you might
be one, or frequently use the tactics of one?
This isn't necessarily a thread intended to point fingers. I've been thinking about writing a thread on pseudoskepticism for some time now, and it
just so happens the link posted from one of my favorite sites was the catalyst.
What can we as a community do when we see pseudoskepticism? Point it out, call it out, and refer to this thread and the resources linked in it.
Similarly, as individuals we can identify these traits and habits within ourselves and work harder to eliminate them from our debates.
Pseudoskepticism does absolutely nothing
to enrich the discussions we have on ATS and is counter-productive to the quality of the site overall.
What pseudoskepticism does is cheapen every topic it touches, and it is often used as a method for gaining "stars" here on ATS, and for collecting
brownie points with other members, and some ATS'ers have made a "career" of it here. This is pointed out in the article linked above:
It is easier to gain esteem or seem rational and clever through debunking efforts than to risk credibility by seriously investigating a
controversial finding. Beaty wrote of “elevating skepticism to a lofty position, yet … opening the way to pathological thinking by refusing to
ever cast a critical, skeptical eye upon the irrational behavior of scoffers.”
How often have we seen this tactic used on ATS? A member will post the most "skeptical" reply possible, masquerading as the voice of rational thought,
and always on the first page of the subject. Once they collect their stars, you usually do not hear from them any further in the thread.
We have probably all been guilty of pseudoskepticism to some degree or another, but it would appear that there are those among us who are
Don't be that guy/gal! Rational thought and skepticism are perfectly healthy and admirable. Pseudoskepticism is completely counterproductive and only
serves to obscure potentially important issues.
edit on 10-4-2014 by DeadSeraph because: (no reason given)