posted on Jan, 23 2009 @ 04:20 PM
I only discovered the word "pseudoskeptic" a little while ago and I'm so glad it's around to throw right back at those people who use the term
"pseudoscience" to ridicule what they see as unwarranted claims.
That said, I do get fed up with a lot of people on these boards posting all kinds of nonsense in an all-too-gullible "OMG" way. If you can't
contribute something sensible to a discussion, then don't. If a discussion's too stupid to bother with, don't. I even started a thead because I
was sick of people posting rubbish on here: which I'd define as making a claim, then giving a source for it which doesn't back up the claim at all.
It's not rocket science. just don't read stuff in that isn't there, and if you are making a claim, back it up with something.
Truzzi himself is my kind of skeptic. In one article (which I'd love to link but my cursor is being a pain, plus, I'm lazy and half the people on
these boards don't bother to read links anyway) he describes an attempt to render honest an attempt to rubbish the claims of Michel Gauquelin, who
found some interesting statistical correlations to do with astrology and success in sport. He wanted to see if there was anything in it, but to do
that you have to rule out, for example, sample bias. Others in the Skeptical Inquirer were trying to tear down Gauquelin's results but
didn't care how they did it. Truzzi tried to point out mistakes they were making - accusing Gauquelin of making mistakes when he's actually
calculated correctly - and was sidelined in favour of a more negative but less intellectually honest approach.
I'd identify two different kinds of "pseudoskeptics£" haunting these boards.
1) The paid disinformant
Usually but not invariably found on the 9/11 boards, these people pursue the party line and have clearly a lot of time and energy to put into
rubbishing "conspiracy theorists". Often an impressive amount of effort goes into what they do. Why do they bother? Some, perhaps, through
genuine conviction... but many, I think, for less genuine reasons.
Let's not forget that, for example, Philip Klass had ties to the CIA and was paid handsomely for what he did. I also find it suspicious that someone
as unscrupulous and intellectually dishonest as James Randi is well funded by some mysterious and generous people.
2) The Boys Who Cry "Hoax"
i've seen people say photographs of alleged UFOs are "obviously" birds, or balloons, or clouds, or whatever. For whatever reason, posting a
picture of a UFO seems to attract a particularly vicious crowd who don't often bother to marshal any arguments for their counter-claims. They are,
did they but know it, literally just the flip side of those poor souls who just swallow any old nonsense without thinking because it makes them
feel cool and important.
There are people out there who, quite rightly, point out obvious hoaxes and misidentifications, but they are usually very careful and
reasonably polite about what they say. I've had my mind changed by arguments from this camp and even if their default position is a negative one,
their arguments are sound and respectful to other posters. These are genuine skeptics and we need them.
I also believe that there are disinfo agents who try to make a whole field look foolish by posting ridiculous claims. And I think it's possible that
some reasonable people allow themselves to get pushed into unreasonable positions which they then have to defend. Dumb. And intellectually
dishonest. Still, that's people for you.
People often bandy about the Carl Sagan mantrum about "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof". He really should have known better.
YOU CAN'T PROVE ANY SCIENTIFIC THEORY!
I'll say that again for the hard of thinking: YOU CAN'T PROVE ANY SCIENTIFIC THEORY!
All you can do is disprove a theory. No mountain of evidence ever proves a theory, it just defers the day that that theory just gets junked
for a better one in light of new evidence.
So people who ask for "proof" are really and truly talking out of their behinds. All you can do is marshal evidence. If published evidence is
anything to go by, and in the UFO field it's got to be a good starting point, then the evidence of a stark contrast between public debunking and
covert action suggests to all but the most obstinate that the USG thinks UFOs are real and is covering it up. But getting "proof" from a few
photos? Can't be done, don't waste your time.
Proof in a court of law only means you've persuaded a jury. Mathematical proof only means that you've got from starting point A to conclusion B by
not evidently breaking the rules of maths. It doesn't tell you anything about anything other than our manipulation of symbols. Asking for "proof"
of UFOs is simply ludicrous until the day our celestial masters reveal themselves in all their glory, which will be 2012 last I heard.
And we know how many scare deadlines have come and gone (one quite recently - oooh, crisis on the 21st!) without anything happening.
If I can make one point here, finally, it's this: the reality or otherwise of UFOs is not, as far as I'm concerned, a scientific quiestion.
It's a historical one. This is particularly relevant to posting on ATS. It's so easy to hoax these days, and there are so many hoaxers out
there, I now look at UFO videos largely for artistic merit. In a sense, I don't care whether something is real or not because I'd say it's pretty
inescapable that the conflict between what the USG says publicly about UFOs and what it does secretively means there's a cover-up going on.
Let alone the number of people who've come forward to Disclosure or Project Camelot.
If I were on a jury, I'd accept it as true. And that's really all that proof is.