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[escepticos] estúpidos trucos escépticos

Esto lo he encontrado enlazado en
Son críticas al escepticismo mejores que la media ;o)
Por si os interesan.

Date: 8 Apr 1998 01:19:29 GMT
From: DOwens6683 <dowens6683 en aol.com>
Newsgroups: alt.paranormal
Subject: Stupid Skeptic Tricks

Ever get into an argument with a skeptic only to end up
exasperated and feeling you've been bamboozled?  Skeptics are
often highly skilled at tying up opponents in clever verbal
knots.  Most skeptics are, of course, ordinary, more-or-less
honest people who, like the rest of us, are just trying to make
the best sense they can of a complicated and often confusing
world.  Others, however, are merely glib sophists who use
specious reasoning to defend their prejudices or attack the ideas
and beliefs of others, and even an honest skeptic can innocently
fall into the mistake of employing bad reasoning.

In reading, listening to and sometimes debating skeptics over the
years, I've found certain tricks, ploys and gimmicks which they
tend to use over and over again.  Here are some of 'em.  Perhaps
if you keep them in mind when arguing with a skeptic, you'll feel
better when the debate is over.  Shucks, you might even score a
point or two.

* * *

consists of demanding a new, higher and more difficult standard
of evidence whenever it looks as if a skeptic's opponent is going
to satisfy an old one. Often the skeptic doesn't make it clear
exactly what the standards are in the first place.  This can be
especially effective if the skeptic can keep his opponent from
noticing that he is continually changing his standard of
evidence.  That way, his opponent will eventually give up in
exasperation or disgust. Perhaps best of all, if his opponent
complains, the skeptic can tag him as a whiner or a sore loser.

Skeptic:  I am willing to consider the psi hypothesis if you will
only show me some sound evidence.

Opponent:  There are many thousands of documented reports of
incidents that seem to involve psi.

S:  That is only anecdotal evidence.  You must give me laboratory

0: Researchers A-Z have conducted experiments that produced
results which favor the psi hypothesis.

S:  Those experiments are not acceptable because of flaws X,Y and

0: Researchers B-H and T-W have conducted experiments producing
positive results which did not have flaws X,Y and Z.

S:  The positive results are not far enough above chance levels
to be truly interesting.

0: Researchers C-F and U-V produced results well above chance

S:  Their results were achieved through meta-analysis, which is a
highly questionable technique.

O:  Meta-analysis is a well-accepted method commonly used in
psychology and sociology.

S:  Psychology and sociology are social sciences, and their
methods can't be considered as reliable as those of hard sciences
such as physics and chemistry.

Etc., etc. ad nauseum.

2.) SOCK 'EM WITH OCCAM:  Skeptics frequently invoke Occam's
Razor as if the Razor automatically validates their position.
Occam's Razor, a principle of epistemology (knowledge theory),
states that the simplest explanation which fits all the facts is
to be preferred -- or, to state it another way, entities are not
to be multiplied needlessly.  The Razor is a useful and even
necessary principle, but it is largely useless if the facts
themselves are not generally agreed upon in the first place.

3.) EXTRAORDINARY CLAIMS:  Extraordinary claims, says the
skeptic, require extraordinary evidence.  Superficially this
seems reasonable enough.  However, extraordinariness, like
beauty, is very much in the eye of the beholder.  Some claims, of
course, would seem extraordinary to almost anyone (e.g. the claim
that aliens from Alpha Centauri had contacted you telepathically
and informed you that the people of Earth must make you their
absolute lord and ruler).  The "extraordinariness" of many other
claims, however, is at best arguable, and it is not at all
obvious that unusually strong evidence is necessary to support
them.  For example, so many people who would ordinarily be
considered reliable witnesses have reported precognitive dreams
that it becomes difficult to insist these are "unusual" claims
requiring "unusual" evidence.  Quite ordinary standards of
evidence will do.

4.) STUPID, CRAZY LIARS:  This trick consists of simple slander.
Anyone who reports anything which displeases the skeptic will be
accused of incompetence, mental illness or dishonesty, or some
combination of the three without a single shred of fact to
support the accusations.  When Charles Honorton's Ganzfeld
experiments produced impressive results in favor of the psi
hypothesis, skeptics accused him of suppressing or not publishing
the results of failed experiments.  No definite facts supporting
the charge ever emerged.  Moreover, the experiments were
extremely time consuming, and the number of failed, unpublished
experiments necessary to make the number of successful, published
experiments significant would have been quite high, so it is
extremely unlikely that Honorton's results could be due to
selective reporting.  Yet skeptics still sometimes repeat this

5.) THE SANTA CLAUS GAMBIT:  This trick consists of lumping
moderate claims or propositions together with extreme ones.  If
you suggest, for example, that Sasquatch can't be completely
ruled out from the available evidence,the skeptic will then
facetiously suggest that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny can't
be "completely" ruled out either.

6.) SHIFTING THE BURDEN OF EVIDENCE:  The skeptic insists that he
doesn't have to provide evidence and arguments to support his
side of the argument because he isn't asserting a claim, he is
merely denying or doubting yours.  His mistake consists of
assuming that a negative claim (asserting that something doesn't
exist) is fundamentally different from a positive claim.  It
isn't.  Any definite claim, positive or negative, requires
definite support.  Merely refuting or arguing against an
opponent's position is not enough to establish one's own
position..  In other words, you can't win by default.

As arch-skeptic Carl Sagan himself said, absence of evidence is
not evidence of absence.  If someone wants to rule out vistations
by extra-terrestrial aliens, it would not be enough to point out
that all the evidence presented so far is either seriously flawed
or not very strong.  It would be necessary to state definite
reasons which would make ET visitations either impossible or
highly unlikely.  (He might, for example, point out that our best
understanding of physics pretty much rules out any kind of
effective faster-than-light drive.)

The only person exempt from providing definite support is the
person who takes a strict "I don't know" position or the agnostic
position.  If someone takes the position that the evidence in
favor of ET visitations is inadequate but goes no farther, he is
exempt from further argument (provided, of course, he gives
adequate reasons for rejecting the evidence).  However, if he
wants to go farther and insist that it is impossible or highly
unlikely that ET's are visiting or have ever visited the Earth,
it becomes necessary for him to provide definite reasons for his
position.  He is no longer entitled merely to argue against his
opponent's position.

There is the question of honesty.  Someone who claims to take the
agnostic position but really takes the position of definite
disbelief is, of course, misrepresenting his views.  For example,
a skeptic who insists that he merely believes the psi hypothesis
is inadequately supported when in fact he believes that the human
mind can only acquire information through the physical senses is
simply not being honest.

7.) YOU CAN'T PROVE A NEGATIVE:  The skeptic may insist that he
is relieved of the burden of evidence and argument because "you
can't prove a negative." But you most certainly can prove a
negative!  When we know one thing to be true, then we also know
that whatever flatly contradicts it is untrue.  If I want to show
my cat's not in the bedroom, I can prove this by showing that my
cat's in the kitchen or outside chasing squirrels. The negative
has then been proven.  Or the proposition that the cat is not in
the bedroom could be proven by giving the bedroom a good search
without finding the cat.  The skeptic who says, "Of course I
can't prove psi doesn't exist.  I don't have to.  You can't prove
a negative," is simply wrong.  To rule something out, definite
reasons must be given for ruling it out.

Of course, for practical reasons it often isn't possible to
gather the necessary information to prove or disprove a
proposition, e.g., it isn't possible to search the entire
universe to prove that no intelligent extraterrestrial life
exists.  This by itself doesn't mean that a case can't be made
against the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence, although
it does probably mean that the case can't be as air-tight and
conclusive as we would like.

8.) THE BIG LIE:  The skeptic knows that most people will not
have the time or inclination to check every claim he makes, so he
knows it's a fairly small risk to tell a whopper.  He might, for
example, insist that none of the laboratory evidence for psi
stands up to close scrutiny, or he might insist there have been
no cases of UFO's being spotted by reliable observers such as
trained military personnel when in fact there are well-documented
cases.  The average person isn't going to scamper right down to
the library to verify this, so the skeptic knows a lot of people
are going to accept his statement at face value.  This ploy works
best when the Big Lie is repeated often and loudly in a confident

9.) DOUBT CASTING:  This trick consists of dwelling on minor or
trivial flaws in the evidence, or presenting speculations as to
how the evidence might be flawed as though mere speculation is
somehow as damning as actual facts.  The assumption here is that
any flaw, trivial or even merely speculative, is necessarily
fatal and provides sufficient grounds for throwing out the
evidence. The skeptic often justifies this with the
"extraordinary evidence" ploy.

In the real world, of course, the evidence for anything is seldom
100% flawless and foolproof.  It is almost always possible to
find some small shortcoming which can be used as an excuse for
tossing out the evidence.  If a definite problem can't be found,
then the skeptic may simply speculate as to how the evidence
*might* be flawed and use his speculations as an excuse to
discard the information.  For example, the skeptic might point
out that the safeguards or controls during one part of a psi
experiment weren't quite as tight as they might have been and
then insist, without any supporting facts, that the subject(s)
and/or the researcher(s) probably cheated because this is the
"simplest" explanation for the results (see "Sock 'em with Occam"
and "Extraordinary Claims"; "Raising the Bar" is also relevant).

10.) THE SNEER:  This gimmick is an inversion of "Stupid, Crazy
Liars."  In "Stupid, Crazy Liars," the skeptic attacks the
character of those advocationg certain ideas or presenting
information in the hope of discrediting the information.  In "THE
SNEER," the skeptic attempts to attach a stigma to some idea or
claim and implies that anyone advocating that position must have
something terribly wrong with him. "Anyone who believes we've
been visited by extraterresrial aliens must be a lunatic, a fool,
or a con man. If you believe this, you must a maniac, a simpleton
or a fraud." The object here is to scare others away from a
certain position without having to discuss facts.

* * *

To be fair, some of these tricks or tactics (such as "The Big
Lie," "Doubtcasting" and "The Sneer") are often used by believers
as well as skeptics.  Scientifc Creationists and Holocaust
Revisionists, for example, are particularly prone to use
"Doubtcasting." Others ploys, however, such as "Sock 'em with
Occam" and "Extraordinary Claims," are generally used by skeptics
and seldom by others.

Unfortunately, effective debating tactics often involve bad
logic, e.g. attacking an opponent's character, appeals to
emotion, mockery and facetiousness, loaded definitions, etc. And
certainly skeptics are not the only ones who are ever guilty of
using manipulative and deceptive debating tactics.  Even so,
skeptics are just as likely as anyone else to twist their
language, logic and facts to win an argument, and keeping these
tricks in mind when dealing with skeptics may very well keep you
from being bamboozled.


When the pin is pulled, Mr. Grenade is no longer our friend.