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A German researcher debunks the Skeptics (excellent)

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A German researcher debunks the Skeptics (excellent)

Postby Winston » Fri Feb 08, 2008 9:41 am

"Dear Winston Wu:

I'm Jürgen and I write you from Germany. Let me tell that your article about debunkers/pseudo-skeptics of PSI is the best handbook to debate with them. I used to debate pseudo-skeptics as a pastime, using the arguments and tactics of your article. However, currently I don't debate with them anymore because I realize that they're inmune to rational discourse and scientific evidence for PSI. Their minds have been damaged by false data and rhetoric spread by professional debunkers. They're lost any critical faculties to examine pseudo-skepticism.

I have strong interest in psi research (specially near-death experiences), spirituality and philosophy and sociology of science. I realized the existence of your article, reading the article titled "NDE rhetoric, debunking the debunkers?" ( ). The author (Jody) uses many of your arguments against debunkers, and adapts them to their specific arguments against NDEs.

There are 3 articles about pseudo-skepticism that everyone should know. The best is yours (because it deals with all the arguments of debunkers). Another good article is "some notes on skepticism":

And the third one is the article of parapysichologist Charles Honorton titled "Rhetoric over substance: the impoverished state of skepticism": ... 90637/pg_1

I'd like to comment in some specific points of pseudo-skeptics and their arguments:

1)Anecdotal evidence and testimonies: as you explained in your article, pseudo-skeptics claims that anecdotal evidence and testimonies are worthless as scientific evidence. But that claim is false: there are some sciences that use testimonies as valid evidence, e.g: forensic sciences:

There is a complete field called psychology of testimony and forensic psychology that deals as the realibility of testimonies and their scientific use: ... istory.htm

In fact, Richard Wiseman wrote in the Skeptical Inquirer a paper titled "Eyewitness testimony and the paranormal" ( ) where he writes: " Much of the evidence relating to paranormal phenomena consists of eyewitness testimony. However, a large body of experimental research has shown that such testimony can be extremely unreliable"

Look that Wiseman wrote that testimonies "can be" (not IT IS) extremely unreliable (not that IT IS extremely unreliable). Pseudo-skeptics tend to confound a possibility with a fact.

Wiseman adds an interesting point that most pseudo-skeptics forget: "In short, there is now considerable evidence to suggest that individuals' beliefs and expectations can, on occasion, lead them to be unreliable witnesses of supposedly paranormal phenomena. It is vital that investigators of the paranormal take this factor into account when faced with individuals claiming to have seen extraordinary events. It should be remembered, however, that such factors may hinder accurate testimony regardless of whether that testimony is for or against the existence of paranormal phenomena; the observations and memory of individuals with a strong need to disbelieve in the paranormal may be as biased as extreme believers. In short, the central message is that investigators need to be able to carefully assess testimony, regardless of whether it reinforces or opposes their own beliefs concerning the paranormal"

As we know, pseudo-skeptics only invalid the testimonies in favor of paranormal, but not against the paranormal. In fact, they use testimonies to debunk the paranormal, for example:

a)In the entry "Sai Baba" of the skeptic dictionary ( ) you can read above a link titled "Witnesses" and other links titled "Conny Larsson's story" and "charges of Sai Baba with many counts of molesting boys"

b)Pseudo-skeptics like to claim that Richard Feynmann "debunked" or "exposed" Uri Geller. But in close inspection, Feynmann experience with Geller was an informal, anecdotal account of Feynmann, not a laboratory scientific test published in peer-review scientific journals:

c)At the time of William Crookes, pseudo-skeptics quoted a testimony of Volckmann to debunk Crookes investigation with the medium. Victor Zammit rebutted that testimonial evidence of pseudo-skeptics: ... lliam.html

It's obvious that pseudo-skeptic's permanent damaged and biased mind give more credit to anti-paranormal uncontrolled/anecdotal testimonies against mediums than laboratory scientific experimentation with mediums, as the recent triple blind study of Dr.Gary Schwartz: ... X/fulltext

The same apply to Ufo evidence:

d)Pseudo-skeptic Joe Nickel used the testimony of Michael O'Neill to cast doubts on John Edwars: "An article in Time magazine suggested John Edward may have used just such chicanery. One subject, a marketing manager named Michael O'Neill had received apparent messages from his dead grandfather but, when his segment aired, he noted that it had been improved through editing"

Matt Nisbet, also uncritically accepted as valid the testimony of Jaroff and O'Neill: " In support of his assertions of Edward's possible hot readings, Jaroff detailed the experience of Michael O'Neill, a past audience member on Crossing Over who had been the subject of a reading by Edward. According to O'Neill's account, producers of the show had spliced into the final program clips of O'Neill nodding yes into the videotape after statements by Edward with which he remembers disagreeing. In addition, according to O'Neill, most of Edward's "misses," both in relation to him and other audience members, had been edited out of the final tape.
O'Neill also claimed that before the show, assistants to the producers had gathered information about audience members, including their names and family histories. O'Neill also told Jaroff that most of the conversations among the audience while they were seated in the stands waiting the start of the show were about dead loved ones, information that could have been picked up by microphones strategically placed about the amphitheater"

2)Pseudo-skeptics are totally ignorant of the sociological/philosophical problems of science: For example, they like to use terms like "pseudoscience" or "pathological science", but don't explain the conceptual and theoric problems of these terms and the fact that past theories called "pathological" are now recognized as good scientific theories:

Also, they ignore that scientific establisment tend to be conservative and, many times, hostile to unorthodox theories. For example, there is experimental evidence of confirmatory bias in peer-review system used in scientific journals:

And the methods used to suppress the scientific dissidents are never discussed in pseudo-skeptical magazines: ... issent.htm ... index.html ... documents/

And the existence of monopolies and scientific research cartels (and their influence in scientific enterprise) are systematically ignored:

The pseudo-skeptic's solid and consistent ignorance of these sociological/burocratic problems of science makes him very credulous and uncritical of accepted scientific practise. They have a very naive idea of science.

3)Pseudo-skeptics are uncritically accept almost all "official" stories: As an example, pseudo-skeptic Michael Shermer uncritically accepted and defended the official story of 9/11, in spite of massive evidence of the inconsistences and valid criticism of the official story:

4)Religious agenda: as you have shown in your article, most pseudo-skeptics are atheists and scientific materialist. They use the "scientific" rhetoric as a propaganda to promote a materialistic/anti-spirituality worldview. As an example, take the book of Lewis Wolpert titled "Six impossible things before breakfast". There, Wolpert try to promote atheism as the only rational option because there is not "evidence" for God. (By the way, Wolpert also tries to debunk psi phenomena with the same argument). To a criticism of Wolpert's book and rhetoric, see: ... dence.html

Pseudo-skeptics/dogmatic atheists' rhetoric, propaganda and behaviour is, maybe, one of the reasons that atheists are considered America's most distrusted minory: ... distrusted

5)"Scientific witch-hunting" and fascistic behaviour. When the pseudo-skeptic has the opportunity, he uses "witch hunting" practiques, intimidation, censorship, etc. to fight "enemies". As an example, look at pseudo-skeptics actions against Wilhelm Reich:

6)Debunkers are supporters of obsolete and refuted philosophies (e.g. positivism): most pseudo-skeptics are dogmatic supporters of positivism: the philosophy that states that the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge, and that such knowledge can only come from positive affirmation of theories through strict scientific method:

Thanks Winston for let me share my thoughts with you.

Best wishes

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Postby Winston » Tue Apr 29, 2008 4:54 am

Jurgen's next response:

"Hi Winston,

Thanks for your comments. It took me some time to write (and document) the pseudo-skeptic's irrationality, inconsistences and contradictions. I've read many of pseudo-skeptics' webpages and books, and I took note of their contradictions. I thought to add all this in my comment and send it to you as a modest contribution to your great article (for me, a handbook) to debunk pseudo-skeptics.

It's ok that you send my comments to your mailing list and add it to your e-book. We need to put together the best information, arguments and references against pseudo-skepticism.

Do most Germans believe in the paranormal? I think so. But it can vary according to the specific phenomenon. I think a high porcentage believes in telepathy and, maybe, in ghosts (it's amazing to see that many people believes in ghosts, many of them because personal experiences).

In Germany, exists the respective pseudo-skeptical organization. It's called GWUP, and it has the same agenda, rhetoric and methods of CSICOP. And there are some good german websites debunking GWUP (e.g. ). A former member of that group, Edgar Wunder, wrote a long and excellent article exposing the methods and agenda of GWUP. Wunder's contribution is very important, because he was an "insider". Sadly, it haven't been translated to english language. If you understand german language, or have german friends, that article is a must read: ... ismus.html

(Also, you could use a free online translator to translate that article to english.)

Winston, recently I get a copy of an excellent parapsychology book. It was written by Chris Carter and titled "Parapsychology and the Skeptics":

Carter destroys the best skeptical arguments using the scientific evidence of parapsychology. He deals only with the best criticism of informed pseudo-skeptics (like Hyman, Blackmore, etc.), not with the rhetoric, polemic and propapandism of Randi and others.

I think that book is a great contribution to scientific parapsychology. Carter's next book will cover afterlife evidence. I hope Carter's books be translated to german and other languages. They can very useful to convince open mind scientists.

Thanks Winston,
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