How to respond to woo-woo

Traces Elk
Traces Elk
Total Posts:  5404
Joined  27-09-2006
20 May 2008 17:33

Subject: The Problem With Scientists

Now it would help if the skeptics who proclaim this argument specify what they would accept as extraordinary evidence. Otherwise, arbitrarily stating this argument gives one an out no matter what evidence is shown.

Fair enough. Let’s see ...

The argument favors conservatism or retaining the established theory in spite of contrary evidence.

That’s the first non-sequitur. There is “no contrary evidence” to the empirical observation that when one dies the physical functioning of the body ceases, the brain dies, all activity terminates, and eventually the corpse is destroyed of decays, end of the show. So this is not a case of “in spite of contrary evidence”, it’s simply that all of evidence points to the fact of existence termination, and no evidence points to the contrary. No “in spite” here.

Therefore, rules should be established to clarify whether a competing theory is promising enough to warrant further research so that when those rules are satisfied, excuses can‚t be used to try to dismiss the evidence off hand.

In this case the rules are simple: claiming there’s life after death is an extraordinary claim, so extraordinary evidence is required, i.e., some testable, falsifiable hypothesis of what kind of afterlife we’re talking about, which can be independently tested and verified or falsified by a number of relevant scientist or institutions worldwide, with repeatable results confirming the cases given as evidence, plus the theory must be capable of offering predictions, which can then be tested to further validate the hypothesis. A claim without a supporting theory or with one that can’t be consistently checked, validated/falsified, and which has no predictive power, must be discarded as unwarranted and unacceptable.

So what sort of evidence would qualify as extraordinary proof?

For a general claim, show me the claim and surely the necessary, reasonable evidence required can be discussed. For the case of life after death, there are many evidences possible, but it is not the burden of the people asking for evidence to postulate it in advance for some unknown theory. Explain first your theory, tell what kind of empirical evidence it manages to conform to, tell what predictions does it make, and then a suitable test battery can be devised to see if it copes or not.

Corollary: “I won‚t consider successful psi experiments as evidence of psi unless the results are replicated by other scientists and peer reviewed.”

Of course. And you can replace “psi experiments” by “cold fusion experiments”, “metallurgical experiments”, or whatever experiments. No experiment can be considered evidence of anything unless it is repeatable by anyone having the necessary means, skeptic or not, and can be peer reviewed by every scientist willing to try, skeptic or not. All of this goes without saying.

[...] because no matter how many times a successful psi experiment is replicated, they still will demand a never-ending higher rate of replication!

Don’t delude yourself. There’s never been any successful “psi” experiment, not a single one. Have you ever heard of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) ? Quoting Wikipedia: “[Since 1968] The JREF sponsors the famous million dollar challenge offering a prize of US $1,000,000 to anyone who can demonstrate evidence of any paranormal, supernatural or occult power or event, under test conditions agreed to by both parties. As of this time [2008], no one has claimed this prize.

Have a look at the million dollar challenge at this url: and then see if you can explain why no one has ever collected.

This is also especially true for ESP and telepathy. Experiments under controlled conditions have been done that revealed consistent well above chance results, which strongly point to the conclusion that ESP and telepathy exist at least to a small degree.

See above, the US$ 1,000,000 challenge also applies to these subjects. Also, what some scientist consider “controlled conditions” frequently has nothing to do with what professional magicians would consider likewise.

Scientist are no match to professional magicians when it comes to devising controlled conditions that prevent any attempt at fraud or information-leaking. Honest scientists usually deal with Mother Nature and its physic laws, which never cheat, so they’re not used to dealing with cheaters. On the other hand, when testing paranormal claims (ESP, telepathy, psi), cheating is the absolute norm, and they get fooled all of the time, not being fluent in the many, many techniques and devices used by their subjects, while professional magicians are all-too-aware on how to deceive anyone (it’s their craft!) and can devise a suitable, tamper-proof, cheat-proof test protocol.

So, unless the alleged “controlled conditions” are set up by professional magicians and they’re present and observing while the test are conducted, you have nothing of the sort and honest scientists will simply be victims of con men.

You’re talking about the ‘best’ scientific books and papers. What made you decide they were the best? What are you classing as supernatural-related books and stuff? Who wrote them and did they have letters after their names? Can you give me the titles of some of the ‘best’ scientific books and papers and explain why they’re the best?

I can, of course, but there’s one thing you should be aware: it is very easy to set up a lot of questions in a few lines, which takes next to no time to concoct and write down, yet any acceptable answers will mean many, many lines, if not pages, and take a lot of time and effort to think and write down. Just for instance,  merely 5 lines worth of such generic questions as yours can easily require 300-500 lines to properly deal with them, and further, I’ve seen that this just prompts you to still make more and more questions.

Now, you can see the situation is not symmetrical. You invest little effort to ask and write down a lot of questions, people answering them must use a lot of time and effort to try and answer them, to essentially no avail as this will only result in yet more and more questions from you, and offering arguments and explanations to you is bound to require a great effort on our part, difficult to justify as you simply give the impression of already having made up your mind.

Sorry but I simply do not have the time for this. I’ve tried to give you my most honest advice in order that you don’t delude yourself and waste your precious little lifetime dealing with nonexistent supernatural nonsense, but methinks you’re not up to it.

My final advice is for you to carefully read “Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions” by James Randi. It’s an exceedingly good and enjoyable read whether you initially agree with it or not, full of real-life cases wholly explained, in all kinds of “paranormal” subjects. Perhaps after reading it you’ll be able to save precious time and money in the future and maybe you’ll eventually get to appreciate my advice for what is worth.


[ Edited: 20 May 2008 17:37 by Traces Elk]
Traces Elk
Traces Elk
Total Posts:  5404
Joined  27-09-2006
20 May 2008 17:38

See? Some people actually do this much better than I do!

Total Posts:  262
Joined  22-05-2007
20 May 2008 21:05

Nice looking out, Salty.