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Misconceptions About Skeptics - Part I

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posted on Aug, 26 2008 @ 06:23 PM
Part I - Misconceptions About Skeptics

Throughout my somewhat limited time here on ATS, I've engaged in several debates with believers of the alien/UFO phenomenon, and invariably a typical set of issues arises in such discourse.

These issues seem to be the crux of most disagreements between skeptics and believers, and it is my intent to catalog most of them, and to offer some talking points/advice so that believers might better understand the skeptic's position and perhaps avoid recycling the same points over and over again. I was going to post the entire list as one thread, but I'm a verbose sucker, and the entirety of the list is far too long for one OP, so I'll be breaking this out as a series.

For the purposes of this thread, I'm going to label the UFO/alien phenomena--to specifically include claims of contact, abduction, co-conspiracy with Earth's governments, implants, and UFO sightings--as the Alien Hypothesis. This helps any literal confusion between UFOs--which remain as unidentified phenomena and technically do not bridge the gap between unidentified and any posited claim of alien existence--and such claims of alien life.

Please note that the terms skeptic and believer are used generally here; for brevity's sake, I'm relying upon some stereotypes, but obviously in reality these terms describe attitudes/mindsets that exist along a spectrum rather than purely a polar plane. For the purposes of this thread, a skeptic is one who generally maintains a neutral point of view and who requires scientific evidence that demonstrates proof in order to consider the Alien Hypothesis to be truth. On the contrary, a believer is one who has already considered the existing evidence, and considers such evidence to be sufficient for believing the Alien Hypothesis to be truth.

1. The Skeptic's True Position, or, A True Skeptic's Position

Even though this has been addressed elsewhere, I believe it would be beneficial to explain what I consider to be the true skeptic's true position. Many believers confuse skeptics with debunkers, and while one can certainly play the other's role in specific contexts, they are not one and the same thing.

The very first thing I'd like to address is the skeptic's belief. Skeptics, in this regard, are really no different than anyone else. They may certainly have their own belief regarding the Alien Hypothesis, and that belief can generally fall into one of the following categories:

  1. A lack of a belief: The truly neutral position. The skeptic holds no personal stake in the matter whatsoever, and remains unconvinced from the current existing evidence.
  2. A disbelief: The skeptic believes the Alien Hypothesis is false. This position may vary when applied to the constituent tennents of the Hypothesis; i.e., the skeptic may disbelieve in alien visitation but may believe in the existence of alien life somewhere in the universe.
  3. Belief: Yes, even though believers may be surprised at this, many skeptics may (and do) actually believe in the Alien Hypothesis. This may be stretching the literal definition of a skeptic, but I'll elaborate in a moment on why I think this seemingly contradictory position is still valid for a skeptic.

I'm breaking this out because I think it's important to realize the distinction between a personal belief, and any claims to know, as objective or "scientific" fact. This is also why I feel you can have a believing skeptic.

The true skeptic should put his or her personal belief aside and consider each claim, each bit of evidence, on its own merit. She is not looking to enforce her belief in any way. In short, a true skeptic can separate belief from knowledge, and does her best to maintain this separation.

Obviously, not all skeptics are great at doing this, and in the case of those who fall under category "b" above, they are slipping towards the realm of a debunker rather than an impartial skeptic.

The main take-away point here is that many believers think skeptics all actively disbelieve in the Alien Hypothesis, and it is only to support this "pre-existing belief" that skeptics reject the current evidence. This is simply not true of all skeptics, and certainly not of honest, true ones. The true skeptic is not concerned with belief, but with fact: the insistence on having evidence that proves the Alien Hypothesis stems from convincing him of a fact, not a belief. If you are a believer, the next time you engage a skeptic, you may want to consider simply asking the skeptic about their belief in the Alien Hypothesis--it certainly shouldn't change their stance in the context of the debate, but you may be surprised to find that they actually believe in similar things as you.

That's it for Part I. Again, I'm speaking in some large generalities and do not mean to offend any particular group if I have misrepresented you here. I'd like to invite any believers to share their thoughts on these points--if I've missed the mark from your point of view, if you see it entirely differently, or if any of this helps bring insight into the minds of skeptics.

[edit on 26-8-2008 by thrashee]

posted on Aug, 26 2008 @ 07:20 PM
Well I certainly commend you for trying to clarify some muddled waters, however, you might want to reconsider your title. It could easily be seen as condescending to "believers" because it implies that there are a number of things that "sceptics" understand that "believers" simply don't get.
Maybe something more neutral like "Common misconceptions about skeptics"
would be more appropriate.
It would be a pity if this turned out to be another one of those threads with two parties bashing each other with misconceptions and personal insults, since this seems to be exactly the kind of thing you are trying to prevent.

posted on Aug, 26 2008 @ 07:33 PM
i think its healthy to be skeptical to everything in life not just UFO's, but sometimes there is a tendancy by skeptics to just call everything odd on ATS a hoax.

there are certain individuals for what ever reason seem to delight in making up garbage on here, its annoying and in alot of ways it damages ATS itself.

however not every odd story is a hoax, i tend to take the position that even if i dont believe such a situation has occured as the OP has said, i suspect at least the OP believes to be true what they have reported and although it may turn out to be something more mundane there is a slim possibility that it is not terrestrial.

i give most Op's the benefit of the doubt that something unusual happened at least in their minds until such time as the story can be debunked or proven, unless for some reason in the past ive encountered them spinning moonbeams. If the story cant be proven one way or the other i stick it on the "Hard to prove" pile and keep an eye out for reports or stories that can correlate this particular encounter one way or the other.

posted on Aug, 26 2008 @ 07:33 PM
Thank you for the feedback--I hope you don't mind but I used your recommendation to rename the title.

Thanks again, good catch.

posted on Aug, 27 2008 @ 04:37 AM
Why do some people need to label themselves and others , a person can be a believer a debunker and a skeptic at the same time.
The problem with this forum are the labels , especially in relation to politics, alie´s and religion threads , were they are used more has insults , and i have seen here that people that label themselves seem to think that it makes them especial or´even superior to others.
Just my opinion.

[edit on 27-8-2008 by dracodie]

posted on Aug, 27 2008 @ 06:40 AM
It is said about web skeptical 'others' (not you in particular!) that "they infest" ATS..."taunting" the members who have logged in and are 'chatting' away. The NY Times recently said "their method is to post willfully ignorant, insulting messages, then sit back and enjoy the righteous, impotent furry aroused around true believers"..."These are sad people trying desperately to medicate their self-loathing by imposing it on others". A skeptics UFO goal seems to be to create a smokescreen by encouraging nonsensical debates amongst ATS members. I agree with writer Michael Goodspeed that the issue is one of skeptical misconduct...we both are of the opinion that it is wrong for anyone to call themselves a "skeptic", who consistently behaves like an ideologue(dogmatist!)....the literal definition of a skeptic is "one who habitually and thoughtfully questions widely accepted beliefs". There are people on ATS who call themselves "skeptics", yet in fact, they spend most of their time defending widely held beliefs (as long as those beliefs are endorsed by scientific or governmental officialdom), while attacking those who genuinely seek out alternative perspectives. For instance, in my area of interest, Space Phenomena on NASA video, the current wisdom of NASA about UFOs on their own video tapes, is 'defended' by so called "skeptics"...The true skeptics of NASA's official positions, and "widely held beliefs' about what the anomalies might be on these videos are the UFO researchers! And NOT those who battle "for" NASA, and whatever the space agency says about UFOs in space. There's another name for them..!

posted on Aug, 27 2008 @ 07:07 AM
Part 2 !...Despite the ever creative explanations for a UFO sighting that "skeptic tanks" always come up with, (think swamp gas!)...the general public finally frames the UFO skeptic in a familiar stereotype...that of person who does not shine. A person who is not pragmatic, prudent or even curious! They spread fear of UFO belief, and mistrust of any UFO free speech! They do this by calling it storytelling, while branding videos as hoaxes and mock them as "farmer in the field" footage! Photos are all photo shopped, sight unseen...Skeptics can not be bullied, reasoned or negotiated why bother is the web view these days..and my view.

posted on Aug, 27 2008 @ 09:34 AM
reply to post by thrashee

Nice Constructive Thread thrashee

I myself am a skeptical believer so I understand where your coming from. Skeptics are far more important to the UFOlogical movement than the 'believers' give them credit for. We are often misunderstood and unfairly labeled as being synonymous to debunkers.

Skeptical Believers 'think' that there is a high probability that the phenomena is real but they would just like to see something more concrete in order to advance/evolve the field of study.

Debunkers have a preconceived stance that none of it is true. Their mind is essentially already made up on the matter whereas a skeptic is saying, "Sure, I can go there. Just show me something that constitutes proof of the hypothesis - something a bit more substantial than 'belief' or a hunch".

For me, it's not UFO's I have trouble 'believing' in - it's people and their agendas (whatever they may be). It's a tough job separating the wheat from the chaff. Unfortunately there is more noise than signal, which is why we have 101 pet theories on the who, why, where and hows - and why UFOlogy is splintered/factionalized. It's belief systems (not knowledge) that creates this chaos.

To truly 'know', we must have proof! It's an inescapable equation.

I look forward to what you will present in Part 2!

Stared & Flagged!


Edit: for Dreaded typos

[edit on 27/8/08 by InfaRedMan]

posted on Aug, 27 2008 @ 10:15 AM

Originally posted by InfaRedMan
For me, it's not UFO's I have trouble 'believing' in - it's people and their agendas (whatever they may be). It's a tough job separating the wheat from the chaff. Unfortunately there is more noise than signal, which is why we have 101 pet theories on the who, why, where and hows - and why UFOlogy is splintered/factionalized. It's belief systems (not knowledge) that creates this chaos.

Well put; you expressed my own sentiments better than I could have.

secretnasaman, I humbly submit to you the above for a possible explanation of why you see skeptics so often scrutinize and distrust claims and photo/video evidence. To be sure, sometimes we can be too quick to dismiss such evidence and every bit deserves a fair shake, but the unfortunate reality is that so much of what's out there is, in fact, hoaxed, provided by folks who are either looking to get their 15 minutes or who simply enjoy practical jokes. I'm sure we've all--believer and skeptic alike--opened a thread in ATS purporting to have "definitive" proof of alien existence, only to discover the usual questionable photo that has already been dismissed, an unsubstantiated claim, or pictures of a dark blob against a dark background. For me personally, the very first thing I feel is bitter disappointment, followed by anger for having had my hopes raised and because more fluff has been introduced into the collective conscience.

On a side note, very interesting perspective on the role reversal of skeptics when considering NASA; I'd never considered it from such an angle

posted on Aug, 27 2008 @ 01:48 PM
Thrash Buddy,

Going the extra mile to promote and validate your side of the house...good man.

As I have said before, the skeptics view is quite necessary to these forums; without your side, disclosure would already have occurred...

My problem takes both ends of the spectrum into account - the true believer is no better than the closed minded debunker; so a medium needs to occur in order to look at issues rationally. this may seem simple considering the forum, but apparently it is more complex than that.

I see far more personal attacks by the skeptics than I do from those that believe...and yes, skeptics get it back ten fold at times, but inviting someone into your home is different than leaving the door unlocked.

Either way, your contributions (to most threads anyways) are welcome as they usually add something of value; and taking the time to separate the labels is appreciated as well - let's just hope it gets noticed.

Just watch the rhetoric or Malevolent may arrange for that probe session...

See ya on the boards man.

[edit on 8/27/2008 by chapter29]

posted on Aug, 27 2008 @ 02:10 PM

I appreciate that you took the time to come through here. Yes, I must unfortunately admit that I've made quite a few personal attacks in my time here on ATS. Maybe this is a reconciliatory measure by me

In any event, even though it's easy to get polarized in these discussions, perhaps this can serve as a positive "half-way" point--or even just a chance for believers to call us skeptics out on some of our own hypocrisies. The true goal, I hope, is simply a better understanding of each side and perhaps an avoidance of repeating the same old argument endlessly

posted on Aug, 27 2008 @ 02:19 PM

Originally posted by Demandred
i think its healthy to be skeptical to everything in life not just UFO's, but sometimes there is a tendancy by skeptics to just call everything odd on ATS a hoax.
The ones that call anything a hoax without having proof of hoaxing are not being sceptics, they are acting (and so they stop being sceptics) as someone who is fighting the evidence, and so they are acting as a believer in the hoaxing and as a non-believer of the event.

If you ever see me acting like that you may slap me on the back of my head.

posted on Aug, 27 2008 @ 02:21 PM
reply to post by thrashee

Very well written! Thanks!

posted on Aug, 27 2008 @ 02:29 PM
reply to post by ArMaP

Spot on...

And I will be the first to slap you if that happens as I read just about all your posts...

posted on Aug, 27 2008 @ 03:19 PM
I read both parts and they are great summarizations of what it is to be a skeptic and skeptical. Maybe this can help some understand from what position a true skeptic comes from.

A dream maybe, but I hope that some can come to realize that a skeptic can't anymore stand the rantings/ravings of the debunkers and pseudoskeptics any more than we can tolerate mindless twittling of coolaid slurping believers. Extremism is unhealthy on either end of the spectrum.

Its really funny though, no matter how you cut it, slice it, define it to any particular person about any particular subject, beneath it all we all are trying to get at the same thing in the end, eh? Its the methods and criteria used by each skeptics and believers that separate us and cause derision and division at times.

Crazy that we have to go through all of the stupid posturing to realize it sometimes. I hope that most times those closer to the middle of the skeptic/believer spectrum can find room to see through each others eyes when needed.

Good thread T

posted on Aug, 27 2008 @ 03:47 PM
Good thread Thrash, it needs to be addressed. S&F.

MY issue is NOT with skepticism, or, those determined to be good, honest debunkers. We NEED skeptics and debunkers. They are the right leg to the believers left. Without both, we have nothing to stand on.
My problem is with the useless, demeaning, rude replies that seem to be the hallmark of the "Hardcore" skeptics.
Everytime I see these useless replies refering to post they disagree with as crazy, imbicillic, moronic, hare-brained, etc, they usually imply that the poster is the same for even thinking it. I can always expect these type of replies just by seeing certain screennames as the last reply for any thread. I click it and am never suprised to see a post thrashing (no diss implied) the poster with NO sort of evidence to back up their disagreement. They just disagree and post to see themselves doing it.

Skeptics on ATS seriously need to readjust their posting and reaction habits to overcome their seriously tarnished image, or, THEY will be the ones to bring shame down upon the heads of this site.

I'll quote the most obvious fellow with a big 'ol chip on his shoulder. See if you recognize the style:

You guys are to quick to take a flying leap of absurdity of the cliffs of ignorance when you guys discuss things like this, you know?

And before you cry that I am talking down to you....well your right I am. Because of idiotic stuff like this, every time I bring this subject up in public I get talked down to. Wonder why?

Yeah. One of "Yours". "Oh," you say, "it's one post, it's not like that member is like that ALL the time?"
No, I went through about 100 of the members posts. Most are like that. See:

Seriously, what a bunch of utter nonsense. OP, I would venture to say you know none of this is true. I am glad to see this thread has a lack of replies, to me that means this community is starting to take itself a little more seriously, and that perhaps rubbish like this will migrate to other boards...where it seems to be welcome (been to GLP lately, lol?)

That's one skeptic. It's also the one most look up to as they become like that which they admire so.
This is NOT debating a post, nor, does this type of answer advance the topic, as absurd as it may be and MAKE NO DOUBT, I see the same posts as the afore-mentioned poster/skeptic and USUALLY feel the same way, but, I think before I post and choose not to reply in such a fashion. I feel it adds nothing to the debate/report other than hurt feelings and off-topic, thread-derailing ad hom replies.

It has to be addressed. It's a part of the attitude that inspired you to start this thread.


posted on Aug, 27 2008 @ 03:54 PM
A very well written post s&f.

As many others i am a "sceptical believer"...
Not that i have a wish to label myself as something i see as a natural part of the world.

But anyways bacl the the topic.
The problem i see is that many of the so called "sceptics" at times jump at threads because they are just a bit too "much out there" for them.
Stories that they believe to be BS and threads they deem to have no room here at ATS.

Now the big question here is, do we have the right to judge a thread to be BS because it is too "out there" ?
That brings out another question doesn't it?

How much do we know, really?
If it sounds like a "fairy tale" is it a fairy tale?

Most of the speculations in ufological forum is about personal belief, not knowledge.
There seems to be three stages of judging a persons thread about a ufo encounter, abduction or something else that happened.
1. Believable.
2. Doubtful.
3. Not accepted, plain Bs, the OP is a liar, it's a hoax.

If i go and read a thread and i see from the OP that it is #3, do i post in it?
No, i dont feel like furthering a discussion about something i find to be too far fetched to be true.
Some sceptics however dont seem to know when to stay out of threads like that, generally asking questions from the OP isn't wrong but jumping, flaming or goating the OP i find wrong, no matter how far fetched the OP in the thread is.

Doing that is only contributing to the riddicule that ufology already have hanging over it.

Now i feel lighter somehow

posted on Aug, 27 2008 @ 04:06 PM
reply to post by thrashee

Very good thread. Well written. Star and Flag

A lack of a belief: The truly neutral position. The skeptic holds no personal stake in the matter whatsoever, and remains unconvinced from the current existing evidence.

This is a major point of contention with me. I honestly don't believe there to be a real neutral ground. The UFO/Alien problem is personal to every intelligent human being on this planet. Let's face it- humans are emotional creatures. We are conditioned (from birth) to feeling superior to every other living creature on this planet. Many of us have a natural tendancy to gravitate towards non-belief, because it challenges our natural superiority complex. To them no proof is good enough except for the proverbial White House landing.

A superiority complex can also have the reverse effect. That is, many scientists believe this condition to be brought about by an inferiority complex. In other words, some people might feel so inferior to the intelligence behind UFO/Alien phenomenon, they instinctively submit to it.... want to worship it like a deity. Such folks might tend to easily fall for hoaxes etc.

posted on Aug, 27 2008 @ 04:14 PM
reply to post by Cuhail

The problem with posters like that is that he is not acting as a sceptic, even if he is one, but I never see him as such.

I think that that member should have been warned after making posts like those, he is not helping anyone and is acting in a way that is not welcome in ATS, and he knows it.

posted on Aug, 27 2008 @ 04:28 PM

Originally posted by Scramjet76
This is a major point of contention with me. I honestly don't believe there to be a real neutral ground. The UFO/Alien problem is personal to every intelligent human being on this planet.
Not to me.

Let's face it- humans are emotional creatures. We are conditioned (from birth) to feeling superior to every other living creature on this planet.
I don't feel superior to any creature, why should I?

Are there living, intelligent creatures on other planets? Good for them. Do they came here from time to time? Good for them, I hope they like it. I find those possibilities interesting but nothing that would make me happier or amazed or whatever, if we some day get real proof of the presence of Aliens on Earth it will be just one more interesting fact about this planet, and I hope that we learn many things about the other planet(s) too.

Some may find this approach too cold, but that is how I am, there are very few (I don't remember any at the moment) things that can make me go

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