Wednesday, June 12, 2013

In Which I Try To School Dr. Skeptic

Dr. Michael Shermer has done some great work in the realm of debunking nonsensical claims about paranormal activity, and describing the difference between science and pseudo-science. His books Why People Believe Weird Things and Borderlands are fundamental reading if you want to understand the difference between science and belief. Unfortunately, he seems to not be as skeptical as he should be about what he reads in the New York Times. Here's an example of what I mean in a long Twitter monologue regarding this NYT article:

Twitter Message by @michaelshermer w/ replies by @Cujo359, June 12, 2013

Go to the byline link to see the entire conversation.

We all have our blind spots, but the points I make seem so obvious that I can hardly believe I have to make them. I guess it's true - you should never meet your heroes, even online.

Claims made on the basis of secret information are usually classified as claims of special knowledge, and are dismissed as nonsense. When Madam Cleo claims she can talk to the dead, reasonable people recognize this as absurd. When the government does it, though, claiming they have "intelligence" that proves their point but they can't tell us what it is, generally sensible people lap this up as their god's truth. I don't get that, but maybe that's because spending a couple of decades in the defense industry gives you a jaded perspective.

Afterword: Here are the links embedded in those Twitter messages:

UPDATE: Added that bit of exposition about special knowledge and Madam Cleo.

UPDATE 2: This is precious. Not completely related to this particular subject, but it does challenge people's credulity when it comes to their trust in certain parts of our government. Click. Read. Enjoy.

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