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Snopes.com and so-called skeptics

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posted on Nov, 19 2005 @ 11:32 AM
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I posted this opinion some time ago on another board, and failed to get anyone to understand the point I was trying to make. Actually, I'm concerned that the reaction here will be exactly the opposite, but we'll see...

First, I would imagine that most people here are at least familiar with snopes.com, but for those who aren't-- it's a website devoted to debunking urban legends and the like.

Snopes bothers me. More accurately, the tendency among self-professed "skeptics" to treat everything that's posted on Snopes as holy writ bothers me. I was under the impression that the whole idea of being a skeptic was to not reflexively believe things, yet all these so-called skeptics, if presented with an idea that might be out of the mainstream, will immediately run to Snopes, look it up, see what they say, then come back and proudly "debunk" the idea.

I don't understand how it is that such people don't see that they're reflexively accepting somebody else's version of the truth, and by doing so are committing the same "error" of which they accuse those who believe the thing that they've rushed off to debunk in the first place. Is it just that most people need to believe something? That the only way the can counter one belief is with another?

I just find it odd and sort of irritating...



(edited to fix header)

[edit on 19-11-2005 by Bob LaoTse]




posted on Nov, 19 2005 @ 11:47 AM
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Did they debunk one of the conspiracies you believe in perhaps? So what do you propose? That nothing on the internet or in any book in the library should be accepted as possibly being truthful?



posted on Nov, 19 2005 @ 12:21 PM
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Originally posted by Simon666
Did they debunk one of the conspiracies you believe in perhaps?


Well that's not what I expected-- that's the same sort of response I got before. I thought that, on a conspiracy-oriented board, it might be different.

But anyway----

NO, they didn't "debunk one of the conspiracies I believe in." I don't even particularly believe in conspiracies, so that's a straw man.

If you'd take the time to reread my post, you'd see that my issue really is not with snopes.com itself, but with the people who slavishly believe everything they read there. The entire notion of snopes is to counter beliefs that people have about things, yet all too many of the people who frequent the site seem to do so so that they can learn what it is that they're supposed to believe. That's just doesn't make sense to me. It's as if somebody wrote a book and called it the Not Bible, and people went out and bought it and took it home and studied it and memorized its scriptures in order to comfort themselves in their atheism.

I don't understand why people seem to feel a need to be told what to believe, even if it's only to believe that some other belief is false. What happened to thinking for oneself?


So what do you propose? That nothing on the internet or in any book in the library should be accepted as possibly being truthful?


No-- that nothing on the internet or in any book in the library should be accepted as ABSOLUTELY being truthful.



posted on Nov, 19 2005 @ 12:28 PM
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I like snopes, its like a ruler by which you can measure the truth of internet stories. I trust it as it seems to back up its facts very well.



posted on Nov, 19 2005 @ 12:34 PM
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Originally posted by Netchicken
I like snopes, its like a ruler by which you can measure the truth of internet stories. I trust it as it seems to back up its facts very well.


Agreed all there articals are well thought out and they always provide some good evidence to back up there claims.



posted on Nov, 19 2005 @ 12:44 PM
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Snopes does their homework. I think I can remember when I didn't agree with Snopes, but when someone goes to the trouble of providing all the details, one can come to conclusions based on those details and reject the Snopes conclusion, if the facts warrant it. Being a skeptic doesn't mean being a numbskull.



posted on Nov, 19 2005 @ 01:07 PM
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The interesting thing about Snopes is that if you take the time to browse through their site, you can discern several trends common among various forms of urban legends. For instance the "friend of a friend,' who often shows up in oral tales.

There are a number of people who study the formation and propagation of these legends.

Most, if not all, of the most popular conspiracy theories are little more than urban legends of the internet age.



posted on Nov, 19 2005 @ 01:34 PM
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Snopes is kind of like Wikipedia: it's not perfect, but based on what I've seen, the purveyors of both sites seem to do their homework; I give them much more attention than I do most of the reports that cite people whom I believe have no credibility whatsoever, such as Jeff Rense, Cliff Carnicon, Zecheriah Sitchin, Tom Bearden, James McCanney, Erich von Daniken, Immanuel Velikovsky, and so on.

I guess my final analysis boils down to a single basic approach. One of the things I do when I look at a site is to compare what they say about things with which I am familiar and what I know. I have been in the aerospace and alternative energy (photovoltaics) engineering business for about thirty years; my wife has been an RN for that long. In addition, we both have some background in things we've taken college courses in.

If a site continually is in error about things we know about, I have to assume that all their other stuff -- the stuff of which I or my wife are ignorant -- is probably in error, as well. On the other hand, if they consistently right those things I know about, their entire corpus of knowledge / assertion / opinion is more acceptable.

So far, places like Snopes and Wikipedia are usually correct about the things I know to be true; so I tend to accept the rest of their stuff as well. Most of the heavier conspiracy sites (not ATS, but some of the really silly ones) are so often wrong about things my wife and I know about that I end up not buying any of their other assertions.



posted on Nov, 19 2005 @ 02:07 PM
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To try to make this point to people in the past, I've reminded them that, technically, everything that's published in the Weekly World News is true.

Every article that they publish says something like, "According to Dr. Peter Pumpkineater, Director of Family Studies at Mother Goose University, blah, blah, blah..."

Whatever they say after that is nominally true, simply because Dr. Pumpkineater did indeed say it, and that's really the only assertion that WWN is making. If it's actually false, then the fault is not truly WWN's, since they're only reporting what it is that the good doctor said.

The thing is that people read the WWN and see such a story and think, "Well, that sounds like a reputable source," so they believe it. While the sources used somewhere like snopes are certainly far more reputable, it's still largely the same thing-- "According to [insert name of reputable source here], blah, blah, blah."

I'm not debating snopes' veracity-- the thing that troubles me, or surprises me, is that it's a site that's nominally designed specifically for "skeptics," but it seems to me that a true skeptic would only be more likely to believe them than to believe, say, the WWN. Yet what I often see is, for instance, somebody posting an alternative theory for something on a message board, and another poster posting NOTHING BUT a link to an article at snopes, as if that, by itself, is sufficient. As if, as I said at the beginning, snopes is holy writ and its word is not to be questioned. That just seems like odd behavior for a self-professed skeptic.

It's similar to hard atheism, which is another viewpoint I don't understand. Although, at least as far as I know, snopes has yet to publish an article debunking the God myth. I'm sure if they did, all the reflexive nonbeliever atheists would be linking it.

I guess the thing is that I'm straightforwardly agnostic about all things about which there is insufficient evidence to be otherwise, and even more than I don't understand reflexive believers, I don't understand reflexive disbelievers, but I see them all the time.

Believer: "Bigfoot exists."
Nonbeliever: "No it doesn't. [snopes link]"

Believer: "UFOs exist."
Nonbeliever: "No they don't. [snopes link]"

Believer: "9/11 was a conspiracy."
Nonbeliever: "No it wasn't. [snopes link]"

With or without a snopes link, I'd still say, "I don't know" to all of those, and I don't understand why more people don't. It really seems that many people have a need to believe something, even if it's only that such and such other belief is NOT true, and that snopes exists largely to provide them with a scriptural basis for their disbelief.

And that's certainly not to say that all who frequent the site do so for that reason. I understand that it's a valuable research tool. I just truly don't understand the tendency some people have to automatically and unquestioningly accept everything that they say simply because they said it. That's not skepticism and is in fact the exact opposite.



posted on Nov, 19 2005 @ 03:56 PM
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Seems like, no matter how much you want people to think for themselves, they still need a barometer for reality, whatever they're reality may be. And we, essentially know that, reality is what you can get away with.

I think you are trying to put a paradigm on people that just doesn't fit most people. By that, I mean that, most people do not do well or want to be out of their comfort zone. They seem to only function acceptably when they're comfort zone is not being pricked. For most people, I think, if they can maintain that comfort zone either through wikipedia, snopes, rense, or what-have-you, then it tends to keep more folks out of institutions, and functional, to varying degrees, on the street and for the public good.

People who believe in every conspiracy that comes down the road tend to not be as functional in a massive societal scenario. People who don't want to be bothered wondering if there are alien lizard folk in the sewers, if the NWO really has Denver under its thumb, if UFOs are actually from the planet munimula, find those types of sites comforting.

And while I'm prattling... I think it is really condescending on forums like this when someone comes on, posts some theory, and because it is not accepted immediately, and universally, start calling all the non-believers, "sheeple".

People are not sheeple. We are all the end products of our belief systems and the model of life that we've been given by our parents, partners, friends, and enemies. That is what makes us what we are. That and the acceptance of pain and pleasure to motivate our lives.

So ... When someone needs a Snopes, a Rense, or even an ATS, it is because of what we have been and done that makes us what we are now, to paraphrase Jim Croce, and in order to make change, you have to do it from a zone of pain or pleasure. That is, after all, the only things that really motivate people to action. It either feels too good to stay where I am, or it hurts too much to stay where I am.

If you want to effect a change in someone's attitudes and belief system, you simply have to give them a reason to change ... Not a put down.



posted on Nov, 19 2005 @ 06:26 PM
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What you have to do is weigh the evidence yourself and come up with your conclusions on which is more reliable. Problem is there are a lot more half baked conspiracies to shot down and usually with good evidence.

See the Bigfoot or 9/11 stuff, doesn’t really exists with snopes,, I couldn’t find any big foot debunking, Like Big foot isnt real, because they have no proof to say that, which to me shows that they post thing only they have hard facts on, Like say a picture that had big foot in it, but someone found the picture with out big foot, nothing so general as Big foot is a lie.

Bottom line , I would hope that most people take both sides of a story and weigh what they see as "Makes sense" Or Hard Facts. You wont find Aliens don’t exists on Snopes or that 9/11 was not a fake, because there is not the smoking gun, a picture, a document saying so. I think because of this snopes finds it self being believed. Because they prove time and time again they only show you facts and the truth.

And in most cases the burden of hard evidence is on the conspiracy itself. All the Skeptic has to do is go on snope (Which I do understand is your whole point) , but since snope seems to find and have good evidence for the skeptic, how can you blame them for it.



posted on Nov, 19 2005 @ 08:19 PM
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Originally posted by sigung86
Seems like, no matter how much you want people to think for themselves, they still need a barometer for reality, whatever they're reality may be. And we, essentially know that, reality is what you can get away with.

I think you are trying to put a paradigm on people that just doesn't fit most people. By that, I mean that, most people do not do well or want to be out of their comfort zone. They seem to only function acceptably when they're comfort zone is not being pricked. For most people, I think, if they can maintain that comfort zone either through wikipedia, snopes, rense, or what-have-you, then it tends to keep more folks out of institutions, and functional, to varying degrees, on the street and for the public good.

People who believe in every conspiracy that comes down the road tend to not be as functional in a massive societal scenario. People who don't want to be bothered wondering if there are alien lizard folk in the sewers, if the NWO really has Denver under its thumb, if UFOs are actually from the planet munimula, find those types of sites comforting.

And while I'm prattling... I think it is really condescending on forums like this when someone comes on, posts some theory, and because it is not accepted immediately, and universally, start calling all the non-believers, "sheeple".

People are not sheeple. We are all the end products of our belief systems and the model of life that we've been given by our parents, partners, friends, and enemies. That is what makes us what we are. That and the acceptance of pain and pleasure to motivate our lives.

So ... When someone needs a Snopes, a Rense, or even an ATS, it is because of what we have been and done that makes us what we are now, to paraphrase Jim Croce, and in order to make change, you have to do it from a zone of pain or pleasure. That is, after all, the only things that really motivate people to action. It either feels too good to stay where I am, or it hurts too much to stay where I am.

If you want to effect a change in someone's attitudes and belief system, you simply have to give them a reason to change ... Not a put down.



That was a beautiful post-- well stated and direct without being either condescending or antagonistic.

I can usually manage not being entirely antagonistic, but I've never quite managed to rid myself of condescension.



It's comfort zones exactly.

I like to envision the individual human psyche as, nominally and theoretically an orb. This orb doesn't exist at birth, but is slowly built up through experience and observation, and, often at least, reflection and analysis. Many of the individual components of the orb are just put up in place without any real regard for how well they fit-- when one is young, analytical skills are generally poorly developed, and life is coming at you full-tilt. It's tough to pick and choose and find pieces that fit well with each other. And, of course and sadly, many people never really develop the analytical skills to see the pieces that don't fit correctly AND the intellectual courage to remove them and replace them.

Yeah... there's an entire emotional side to this too. People form attachments to the various pieces of their orbs for any of a number of reasons.

Anyway, for whatever reason, many? most? ...people have all these individual pieces of their orbs that don't quite fit. Many of these pieces are genuinely defective-- logically unsound or even empirically false-- and they leave gaping holes in the orb. Many more of them just don't really fit in with other pieces, and result in a poorly formed orb.

All of these ill fitting pieces, if not replaced, must be braced or supported or patched or, in extreme cases, defended, sometimes at virtually all costs. That way leads to psychosis.

Each possible observation about the world is a little piece of the orb of each individual capable of making that observation. Each question that can be answered, even simply with "I don't know" is a little empty space in each orb of each person who can form the question. That space must be filled with some sort of answer, or be left a hole, and holes, once defined, are potentially threatening.

For many? most? ...people, the way to fill that hole is to simply take the answer one is given by a trusted source and stuff it in the hole and be done with it. There's a hierarchy of reflection/analysis, and there are people who can and will travel further along the path to genuinely understanding the answer and comparing it with other known answers and checking its fit and so on, but many people don't have that ability and many who nominally do have it don't have the time or energy or initiative to actually do it. The more complex the issue is, the less likely it is that anyone will go to the necessary trouble, until one reaches a realm inhabited solely by professionals in that particular field.

So... however it is, for whatever reason, we all have fewer or more of these gaps and ill-fitting pieces and patches and braces and defenses and rationalizations and so on.


I guess the thing that irritates and perplexes me (and grants me cause to feel self-righteous-- thus the condescension) about this snopes as holy writ thing that I'm trying to communicate is that it seems more of a waste to almost make it all the way to depending on one's own faculties to analyze the legitimacy of an idea, and stopping just that little bit short. Non-analytic people-- the ones that are often called sheeple (I too dislike that term and don't use it myself, although I feel that it is, if a bit cruel, probably largely accurate-- sheep too are, if one looks closely enough, individuals, if only in the details)-- don't particularly bother me since I know that they're an insurmountable distance from ever analyzing ideas on their own, so I see no betrayal in their actions. How can one blame someone who can't even write in complete sentences for believing George Bush, or Pat Robertson, or Al Sharpton, or Michael Moore? But to get oh-so-close to actual analysis-- to at least have the intellect necessary to understand what one reads at, for instance, snopes, but to then simply stop and ultimately do the same thing that most everyone else does just sort of gets under my skin. And yes, grants me an excuse to feel superior and condescending, which is probably my most obvious defensive mechanism, designed to deal with the weakest part of my own orb-- actual engagement with the world. I've sacrificed many of the standard comforts of life-- probably too many of them-- in order to follow a devoutly reflective path. I never got the knack that only a very few actually have of juggling truly deep analysis and actual engagement with the world, and human society is really defined by those who engage, so while I'm preternaturally confident of the essential rightness of my worldview, I'm handicapped in actually dealing first-hand with that world. That's the weak part of my orb, and the one that I most actively protect, generally by diverting attention either positively to the strong side-- analysis and communication of ideas-- or, unfortunately, to the flaws in other orbs-- specifically those that result from faulty or missing reflection and analysis. And the targets with whom I feel least like a bully are those who are almost but not quite at a truly and dependably rational and balanced and well-thought-out point.

But of course, I wasn't thinking all of this when I wrote the original post-- I was just indulging. I almost immediately saw what I had done, and was particularly abashed by the sincerity of most of the responses-- yes, snopes is a useful site and yes, even though I like to puff myself up for not doing so, it's often necessary to not waste the time and effort thinking out the answer, and is advantageous to simply find a good answer and assume that it's going to fit, and there probably aren't many sites out there that provide more trustworthy answers. But then, I wasn't thinking that either-- I was just spouting off. Then I gave in, went offline and went and played a fulfilling, if cold, round of disc golf.


Then I come back and check in here and find your response and... *sigh*

It's the same truths and same observations that I might have made, had I taken it far enough and not stopped short at condescension.

Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for gracing this thread with it. Thank you for making me stop and think and analyze and reflect deeper than that point of which I'm so damned proud, and thereby giving me the kick in the ass that I didn't consciously realize I needed.



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