Ubi Dubium… | Buzzwords of Nonsense


This post has been retitled, updated, and cleaned up grammatically on 21/10/2018 from the original, though the actual content and meaning are in essence the same. Enjoy. ~Troythulu

Those who promote nonsense as fact, and there are many, often use marketing techniques, saying that that their claims are “hidden,” “secret,” or “suppressed” knowledge, that some sinister, nebulous “they” don’t want you to have.

It’s really nothing more than a cynical selling point, included and not limited to terms like “natural,” “organic,” or my favorite, “holistic,”that last used in promoting alleged alternative medical treatments.

Let’s face it, this makes whatever idea or claim being sold look much sexier than the same not dressed up with a conspiracy theory or vague obscurantist buzzwords, and this makes it more appealing for those vulnerable to the sales pitch.

*Ahem*

Why do often smart people often fall for vague jargon that has no real meaning? Why do even smart people succumb to non-smart ideas and claims, even dangerous products or useless treatments?

I think there’s a number of reasons at play, and I doubt that it easily boils down to a simple answer, since people tend to be interestingly complex individuals with equally interesting and complex minds.

Now then….

People often consider vague and meaningless words and phrases to have deep meaning, and since we are a species that loves narratives, being storytelling animals, we tend to see patterns and attribute agency where they sometimes do not really exist.

We subjectively impose meaning to the meaningless, often without even being aware that we do it, and so fool ourselves into thinking that the meaning we give it comes from without rather than from within ourselves

The brain has been described as a belief engine – we see patterns and give them meaning whether those patterns and that meaning are really there or not as a way to explain what seems to happen around us, unthinkingly.

But one does not have to be mentally ill, poorly educated, or stupid to do this – it happens to all of us, simply because of how our brains operate, using simple rules of thumb that sometimes serve us well, and sometimes not.

In seeing the brain as an incredibly complex machine rather than an otherwise useless shell or mere interface for a mystical soul, it becomes obvious that a world in which everything not currently understood is a deep supernatural mystery unfathomable by science, is a lot less satisfying and interesting.

Pseudoscience and most paranormal claims seem to me more a failure of the imagination, and they lead to a worldview in which our sense of the truly wonderful in the world is dulled by bombardment with the same increasingly mundane claims and worn-out talking points by those riding the coattails of science without being willing to play by its rules or do its work.

Tf. Tk. Tts.

Astronaut UFO Sightings & Photos


Astronauts as UFO Eyewitnesses:

Astronauts – Wouldn’t they be among the best UFO eyewitnesses if any? Even more so, as conditions outside the atmosphere would make UFO sightings more compelling than those seen on ground or in the air? Consider: certain common ways of misidentifying ordinary aerial phenomena just wouldn’t be there. That includes misinterpretations of ordinary things like aircraft, birds, clouds, and balloons.

UFO Sightings & Pictures:

Claimed sightings and pictures of UFOs can be found all over the Internet. But there’s an enormous amount of blatant fraud and deception by UFO proponents, those who willfully distort and misrepresent the real reports of astronauts, either doctoring or completely fabricating photos offered as supporting evidence for their claims.

A close look at astronaut UFO sightings strongly indicates, if not with complete certainty, that every alleged UFO report credited to astronauts is simply and unequivocally false.

UFO Reports:

Reports claimed to be made personally by the astronauts show themselves to be distorted by the UFO media when examined closer. And that’s despite obvious conventional explanations. Even if an object in space isn’t a star or planet, this doesn’t strengthen the case for it being a UFO or anything else extraordinary.

Also, UFO proponents often selectively ignore or leave out an astronaut’s own description of what they actually saw. This can persuade some readers of these reports to believe that a given sighting was much more mysterious than it actually was.

Mystery-Mongering:

Mystery-mongering is rife in the pseudosciences, and UFOlogy is by no means an exception.

In creating these sightings, often from whole cloth, UFO proponents show that they lack credibility by so deceiving their readers, fabricating absurd claims. They then substitute these for credible but conventional reports and genuine images. It tends to be low-circulation UFO magazines and members of the UFO community who badly, if at all, research their facts who most often do this.

Conclusion:

The huge star-power of astronauts, like any appeal to celebrity, and helped by knowing and purposeful deception by some UFO enthusiasts casts much doubt on claims that UFOs are anything more than just an earthly psycho-cultural phenomenon, and not anything exotic, like aliens or psychic projections, however boring and mundane that may seem to believers.

Referrences —

Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, by Terence Hines, pp. 188-190, published by Prometheus Books, 1988.

The Mythical “Psychology of the Skeptics”


It is nothing short of amazing how many proponents of extraordinary claims, usually without qualifications to know what they are talking about, but sometimes even those who should know better, try to expound on the “psychology of the skeptics™” and get their attempts at reading minds so completely and utterly wrong. Nothing short of amazing. And nothing better than chance odds of getting it right.

First, skeptics are a pretty diverse bunch personality-wise, without a common theme or reason for thinking or feeling a given way, so there is simply no such thing as a single universal generalization of “the” personality type applicable to skeptics. That can apply to anyone as well, skeptics, believers, agnostics, and proponents alike

Second, a little look through any up-to-date psychology textbook or journal – yes, even those written by “damned fundamentalist reactionary skeptics” – will reveal a wealth of data pertaining to the psychology of belief, from total incredulity to complete acceptance, without a need for a special psychological profile for skeptics. In most psychology studies on the causes and mechanisms of belief, skeptics are already entered into the equation–otherwise there would be nothing to compare with the sometimes uncritical acceptance of such claims.

Most attempts by proponents so far to “understand” skeptics involve the use of logical fallacies, usually ad hominems (interesting that they should be the ones to scream “ad hominem!” as much as they do, but given the liberal use of those as well, but I digress…), straw man arguments, well-poisoning, the hasty generalization (using small, non-randomized, and non-representative samples of skeptics and applying their motivations and personalities to all of them) and to support this generalization, the use of selective and often out-of-context quotations to validate their conclusion.

These sloppy, unprofessional and ad hoc attempts at psychoanalysis of critics of extraordinary claims are just rationalizations made by proponents to justify dislike of those who offend them or shock “delicate sensitivities.”

Provisional lack of belief and refusal to believe are not the same. This is no arcane mystery, just basic psychology 101. When a lack of belief is confused with a refusal to accept for any reason, and ten reasons that skeptics must be deeply afraid of the claims they examine for not accepting them without strong evidence, one must also argue that skeptics are deeply frightened of dragons, unicorns, faeries, chupacabras, and flying pigs, as well.

For the record, I’m fascinated, not frightened, by the paranormal, by pseudoscience, by grand conspiracy theories, by science denialism, like a moth to a flame, though I look at it with a more critical eye than I did when I believed. Ever want to find out why and how a skeptic thinks the way they do?

Just ask one. How hard can that be?

(Last Update: 2019/2/8, Text corrected)

If You Claim ….


This piece has been rewritten and updated since its original posting date of mid-2009. This has been mostly to expand text and to shift emphasis from beliefs to claims, which I think most rightly demand skeptical scrutiny over belief, which is more personal and subjective. Claims can be shared intersubjectively, after all. (8/5/18) ~Troythulu

The following was inspired by a post by Skepdude on the Skepfeeds blog…Enjoy.

If you claim that the pyramids of ancient human civilizations were built by aliens or Atlanteans, you’re probably wrong.

If you claim that conventional explanations for unusual phenomena are always contrived and implausible because you don’t understand them, you’re wrong.

If you claim that believing something really, really hard makes it true, you’re wrong.

If you claim that objective truth or reality doesn’t exist, and that this is objectively true or real, you’re wrong.

If you claim that cold reading, hot reading, the Forer effect and the Ideomotor effect are myths because they are used to refute psychic powers or some other personal favorite claim, you’re wrong.

If you claim that superstition and magical thinking are always and everywhere healthy and needed for humanity’s long-term survival, you’re probably wrong.

If you claim that the Iron Age religious rules you follow metaphysically apply to everyone on Earth, including those of us not of your religion, you’re wrong.

If you claim that ancient myths are literally true historical accounts even with no validated corroborating accounts from independent sources, you’re wrong.

If you claim that electromagnetism and not gravity is the principal large-scale binding force of the Cosmos, given the evidence, you’re wrong.

If you claim that the laws of physics are different on Earth than they are in space, you’re in all likelihood wrong.

If you claim that invoking a conspiracy to dismiss a telling lack of evidence for a crank theory is logically valid, you’re wrong.

If you claim that human evolution was influenced by ancient astronauts from the stars, you’re probably wrong.

If you claim that the planets Nibiru or Tiamat actually exist and can or will cause catastrophic disasters on Earth, given the lack of evidence for these planets as claimed, you’re wrong.

If you claim that those who don’t believe in the paranormal are in fact deeply afraid of it or wedded to naive materialism, you’re probably wrong.

If I claim that I cannot possibly be wrong about any of the above claims, then I’m probably wrong, and likely to look very silly should any of them turn out to be in fact true … but I’m not holding my breath on that.