Archive for Michael Fullerton

February 2014

Skeptopathy_Feb14b

Articles

Séralini Study Fuelling Fear of ‘Frankenfood’ Retracted

Exposes the pathological arguments of apologists for the retraction of the Séralini study which showed the toxic dangers of Monsanto’s GMO maize.

Thought Terminating Trolls

Shows how accusing people of Internet trolling can be a form of trolling itself which is meant to halt discussion of heretical ideas.

Faith-Based vs Evidence-Based Skepticism

Examines the difference between faith-based pathological skepticism and evidence-based healthy skepticism.

Is True Skepticism Possible?

Show the ubiquity of pathological skepticism and how the vast majority of us have limits to which of our beliefs we will objectively examine.

Reviews

Review: “Is There a Pseudoscience Event Horizon”?

Review of Steven Novella’s article on the characteristics of pseudo-science.

Michael Fullerton

Michael Fullerton

BSc Psychology/Computer Science, University of Calgary, 1995. Member of Scientists for 9/11 Truth and Scholars for 9/11 Truth & Justice.

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Faith-Based vs Evidence-Based Skepticism

500px-Belief_Venn_diagram.svgA good way to understand the difference between pathological skepticism and healthy skepticism is to look at it in terms of how the skepticism is based. Pathological skepticism is based on faith. Healthy skepticism is based on evidence. Evidence in turn can be faith-based or understanding-based. Faith-based evidence is evidence provided for from a trusted authority which is taken on faith. Understanding-based evidence is evidence that comes from truly understanding the factual nature of the evidence. An example of faith-based evidence would be accepting that the Earth is round simply because you were told it was round. An example of understanding-based evidence would be taking a sea voyage and performing the measurements that prove the Earth is in fact round.

Let’s face it, not all of us are experts in every field. So sometimes when making a decision we must look to authorities to help with that decision. We are simply trying to make the best decision based on what information we have on hand. However, it’s very important we always remember that these authorities could be wrong. The history of science is a history of the consensus being at least partially wrong. This trust in authorities becomes pathological when it is made absolute. Those that automatically believe something is true because of a scientific consensus are faith-based not science-based. An appeal to consensus involves faith in the beliefs of a group of others.

Take the issue of climate change. On both sides we have skeptics that appeal to authorities. Human caused warming proponents appeal to the consensus of climate scientists. Global warming skeptics appeal to a group of authorities who are mainly not climate scientists but do tend to have at least indirect ties to fossil fuel industries.

Like all large companies dealing in controversial commodities, oil companies engage in expensive and successful public relation campaigns to convince people that their product is safe.[1] They setup front organizations, like the Global Climate Coalition[2], to present a favorable image and counter negative information. They buy studies that show their products are beneficial and bury studies that don’t.[3]

Faith-based evidence only works when the authorities dispensing it are on the level. When their minds are distorted by arrogance or perverted by corporate interests they can’t be trusted. For that reason we can never assume a scientific consensus constitutes truth.

Notes

1. Stauber J. C., Rampton S. (1995), “Toxic sludge is good for you : lies, damn lies, and the public relations industry”, Common Courage Press

2. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Global_Climate_Coalition

3. http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/campaigns/global-warming-and-energy/polluterwatch/koch-industries/case-study-polar-bear-junk-sc/

Michael Fullerton

Michael Fullerton

BSc Psychology/Computer Science, University of Calgary, 1995. Member of Scientists for 9/11 Truth and Scholars for 9/11 Truth & Justice.

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Review: “Is There a Pseudoscience Event Horizon”?

The_Scientific_MethodOn November 12 Steven Novella wrote an article on what he believes pseudo-science involves.[1] In the simplest terms though, pseudo-science is anything presented as science when it is not. Here is the single actual characteristics of pseudo-science:

1 – Pseudo-science does not follow the scientific method where observations are recorded, an explanation is proposed to explain the observations, the explanation is tested by obtaining further observations that either support or refute the explanation.

I would argue that something like string theory, which currently cannot be tested does not constitute pseudo-science because methods to test it simply cannot be thought of at this point in time.

Here’s what Novella believes pseudo-science involves:

  1. Hostile to criticism, rather than embracing criticism as a mechanism of self-correction
  2. Works backward from desired results through motivated reasoning
  3. Cherry picks evidence
  4. Relies on low grade evidence when it supports their belief, but will dismiss rigorous evidence if it is inconvenient.
  5. Core principles untested or unproven, often based on single case or anecdote
  6. Utilizes vague, imprecise, or ambiguous terminology, often to mimic technical jargon
  7. Has the trappings of science, but lacks the true methods of science
  8. Invokes conspiracy arguments to explain lack of mainstream acceptance (Galileo syndrome)
  9. Lacks caution and humility by making grandiose claims from flimsy evidence
  10. Practitioners often lack proper training and present that as a virtue as it makes them more “open”.

Let’s examine some of these characteristics one by one.

1 – Hostile to criticism, rather than embracing criticism as a mechanism of self-correction

This would seem to apply to the majority of scientists. Take for example just about any case where a scientist comes along with an explosive new idea that disrupts prevailing thinking. What tends to happen is that the upstart is ridiculed.[2] Presenting a new way of thinking is a form of criticism. It is saying “Hey you all seem to have it wrong.” Ridiculing that criticism is a form of hostility.

2 – Works backward from desired results through motivated reasoning
3 – Cherry picks evidence
4 – Relies on low grade evidence when it supports their belief, but will dismiss rigorous evidence if it is inconvenient.
5 – Core principles untested or unproven, often based on single case or anecdote
9 – Lacks caution and humility by making grandiose claims from flimsy evidence

I agree that the above are characteristics of pseudo-science. Interestingly enough though, Dr. Novella and every other mainstream “skeptic” wholeheartedly believes in a crackpot theory that exemplifies all of these characteristics, the official story of how the three towers fell on 9/11. The official story was concocted immediately after 9/11 happened. NIST was commissioned to find support for this theory (2) by fabricating evidence and ignoring evidence that would prove the hypothesis false (3,4,9).[3] Remember that never before had natural collapses ever looked anything like what happened to the Twin Towers and WTC 7.(5) Caution and humility would cause one to acknowledge evidence that conflicts with what the claimer wants to believe.(9)

8 – Invokes conspiracy arguments to explain lack of mainstream acceptance (Galileo syndrome)

This criteria is not in any way automatically indicative of pseudo-science. It is in fact entirely possible that a notion does not garner mainstream acceptance due to a conspiracy. Those that promote this conspiracy view must provide evidence to support it. Similarly, those that claim no conspiracy is involved must also present evidence to support this. Simply proclaiming that a claim of conspiracy is false without evidence is pseudo-science itself.

To summarize, people like Novella unnecessarily complicate the notion of pseudo-science. We have to question why. Perhaps it is a way to hide their own pseudo-science leanings. Pathological skepticism after all, like pathological science, always involves pseudo-science.

Notes

1. http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/is-there-a-pseudoscience-event-horizon/
2. http://skeptopathy.com/wp/?p=69
3. http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2012/09/10/911-pseudo-science-a-us-foreign-policy-built-on-fraud/

Michael Fullerton

Michael Fullerton

BSc Psychology/Computer Science, University of Calgary, 1995. Member of Scientists for 9/11 Truth and Scholars for 9/11 Truth & Justice.

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Séralini Study Fuelling Fear of ‘Frankenfood’ Retracted

gmo-free-hiThe pseudo-skeptic blogosphere was abuzz in celebrative glory after a damning study to Monsanto’s GMO corn was recently retracted.[1] The same irrelevant talking points were repeated again and again. See the following for a few examples: Sharon Hill at “Doubtful News”[2], Michael Simpson at “Skeptical Raptor”[3], Steven Novella at “NeuroLogica”[4].

The study was retracted for two main reasons: rats with a tendency for tumors were used and small sample size. According to the head of the study though, Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini, they used the exact same rats and the exact same numbers that Monsanto used to get authorization for its maize.[5] The counter argument is that these were two entirely different sorts of studies. Yes so? The main difference between the studies was that Séralini’s study was more extensive. Monsanto’s study lasted only 90 days while Séralini’s lasted 2 years. Monsanto looked at short term toxicity while Séralini looked at long term toxicity. Among competent scientists, a longer study tends to be more accurate since toxicity indicators like cancer are usually a slow process. If any study should be criticized it is Monsanto’s since they did not monitor the effects of their maize long enough to catch harmful side-effects like cancer. In addition, Séralini’s study involved a greater number of tests groups. A greater range of parameters were measured. More information was given on what the diets contained. In particular, the control diet was explicitly stated to be non-GM. Monsanto in comparison did not state that their control diet was non-GM in their 90-day feeding trial data. So Séralini’s study used proper control diets as stipulated by EU GMO legislation whereas Monsanto used irrelevant control diets.[6]

One of the main “failings” of the study was the rat species used which had a tendency for tumors, the Sprague Dawley rat strain. So what if that strain is more likely to develop tumors? What Séralini found was that rats fed Monsanto’s Roundup-tolerant GM maize NK603 had very high levels of cancer and died earlier than the control group. How in any way is it relevant that the rats used are more susceptible to tumors? The whole point of a control is to show that the thing being studied has some sort of significant effect you wouldn’t see if that thing wasn’t present. Only crackpots, imbeciles or liars would ever find tumor susceptibility a significant issue here. It is a valid minor criticism that could be resolved by a future study using a different rat strain. But retracting an entire paper over such a ridiculous non-issue is horrifically unscientific.

The sample size argument is also entirely irrelevant. Séralini followed the toxicity part of OECD protocol no. 453 as he should have. This protocol states that you must use a minimum of 10 rats of each sex per test group.[7] He followed the protocol and used 10 rats of each sex per test group. Whereas Monsanto used 20 rats of each sex per test group but strangely only analyzed 10 in their study. Both then used 10 rats per group, the minimum required. But why did Monsanto only analyze 10? Did they select only the 10 healthiest GMO fed rats and the 10 least healthy control rats to falsify a positive result? We can’t tell because their data is conveniently unavailable.

It’s true that for a cancer study a minimum of 50 animals of each sex per test group are required. But Séralini was investigating toxicity of NK603 maize not to find out if it caused cancer. Plus he had no reason to believe GMO diets could result in cancer since Monsanto’s studies showed no such effects. Séralini observed high rates of cancer in the GMO maize fed rats and reported that observation as any good scientist would do. Was he expected to ignore observations that did not conform to what he expected to find?

It is also true that Séralini’s results are inconclusive because of the rat strain and the small sample size. But so are Monsanto’s results. Studies are retracted over serious errors or fraud not inconclusiveness. Monsanto’s study used GMO contaminated feed for the control group so that the feeds were almost identical.[8] How is using contaminated feed that would eliminate the uncovering of any side-effects not a serious error?

Steven Novella has made some interesting comments about how Séralini’s response is more about expounding the fact that other studies and especially Monsanto’s have the same alleged methodological deficiencies as his study.[9] He claims this involves committing the ad hominem tu quoque fallacy. However, this fallacy involves pointing out an inconsistency of the opponent instead of dealing with the argument. Séralini is not doing this. He has dealt with the argument and is simply saying that he acted the same way as Monsanto and wonders why he is attacked while Monsanto isn’t. What he is exposing is an extremely disturbing bias. Novella is bizarrely implying that simply showing bias amounts to committing a logical fallacy. He is misrepresenting Séralini’s actual argument and attacking that misrepresentation. In other words, he commits the straw man fallacy. Real science is without bias. Pseudo-science is biased. Séralini is absolutely correct that the same standards should be applied to all research. Not just the research that threatens massive corporate interests should be subject to excessive arbitrary scrutiny. Marco Truzzi identified such double standards in the application of criticism as one of the fundamental characteristic of pseudo-skeptics.[10]

What this retraction really shows is that mainstream science is a fraud. It is falsely represented as rational and free from bias when clearly it is not. It is easily corrupted by powerful corporate interests to suppress legitimate science that damages their bottom line. And what kind of skeptics would champion this corporate perversion of science? Why pathological skeptics of course.

Notes

1. http://www.canada.com/technology/Study+that+fuelled+fear+frankenfood+retracted/9225411/story.html

2. http://doubtfulnews.com/2013/11/seralinis-paper-about-rats-with-tumors-from-gm-food-is-retracted/

3. http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php/journal-retracts-seralinis-controversial-gmo-cancer-article/#comments

4. http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/seralini-gmo-study-retracted/

5. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/sep/28/study-gm-maize-cancer

6. http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php/news/archive/2012/14226-response-to-monsantos-rebuttal-of-seralini-study-1

7. http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/environment/test-no-453-combined-chronic-toxicity-carcinogenicity-studies_9789264071223-en;jsessionid=fo1ll46jnm8qs.x-oecd-live-01

8. http://www.criigen.org/SiteEn/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=384&Itemid=84http://

9. http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-seralini-gmo-study-retraction-and-response-to-critics/

10. Truzzi, Marcello (1987). “On Pseudo-Skepticism”. Zetetic Scholar (12/13): 3–4.

Michael Fullerton

Michael Fullerton

BSc Psychology/Computer Science, University of Calgary, 1995. Member of Scientists for 9/11 Truth and Scholars for 9/11 Truth & Justice.

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Thought Terminating Trolls

480px-DontfeedthemImagine a violent neo-nazi skinhead spewing profanity-laced anti-Jewish statements on a Jewish Holocaust remembrance forum. Internet trolls are a serious problem. Putting it simply, Internet trolls are people that deliberately post offensive comments on-line with the sole intention of upsetting others. The flip side of Internet trolling occurs when someone simply making a statement that others disagree with, is falsely accused of being such a troll.

If I make a statement on a forum that few agree with, does that make me a troll? It depends on my intention. If I am making the statement with the sole purpose of annoying others, yes I am a troll. If however, I am simply trying to get people to look at the topic being discussed in another manner as an attempt to get others to think critically and question their beliefs, no I am not a troll. In the latter case I am a non-conformist who is not controlled by group think. I have the courage to take a stand on an unpopular view.

It is often difficult to gauge someone’s intent. This is particularly the case on the Internet where there are no body language or tonal indicators that we generally use to help us identify intent. Because it is difficult to determine intent does not give people the right to assume a person’s intent merely to enforce group think.

When someone dares to pose an unpopular but legitimate argument to the group and that person is called a troll, the person is being attacked instead of his argument. In other words, the ad hominem abusive logical fallacy is committed. Ironically, such behavior is a regular occurrence on mainstream “skeptic” groups that purportedly encourage “critical thinking”.

When someone is called a troll when they are not, an inflammatory comment is made that is upsetting to the person. Sound familiar? This negative feeling is compounded if a group of people gang up on the person. The group is actually engaging in the very same sort of behavior they are falsely accusing the “troll” of.

When a group can shut down further discussion outside the groups’ belief system simply by someone saying “don’t feed the trolls”, we have the employment of the thought terminating cliché. The thought terminating cliché remember is a commonly used phrase used to quell cognitive dissonance by dismissing dissent or justifying fallacious logic. So when the majority of the group hold certain beliefs and then these beliefs are questioned, stress and discomfort ensue. Cognitive dissonance. A critical thinker would welcome questioning as a way to advance learning. They would want their mistakes exposed instead of remaining hidden. They would deal with their cognitive dissonance by either refuting the argument or accepting it as valid and admitting their mistake. The uncritical thinker would resort to low-brow ad-hominems and thought terminating clichés instead of reason. It you want to find pathological skeptics, look out for the thought terminating trolls.

Michael Fullerton

Michael Fullerton

BSc Psychology/Computer Science, University of Calgary, 1995. Member of Scientists for 9/11 Truth and Scholars for 9/11 Truth & Justice.

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Is True Skepticism Possible?

551px-HolocaustSeveral months ago I’ve had a very disturbing revelation. I used to think I was a true skeptic but now I know that I’m not. I’m not sure it’s even possible for anyone to really be a true skeptic. This realization all started when I came across a video by Anthony Lawson called “Holocaust, Hate Speech & Were the Germans so Stupid?”. The title seemed innocuous enough and I knew and respected Lawson for other work he had done. So I watched it. To summarize the video briefly, it makes a seemingly strong case for the fact that although many many Jewish people definitely did die in Germany’s Nazi concentration camps, there is no credible evidence that the Nazis had in place a plan to kill Jews en masse in gas chambers. Instead, according to the video at least, the Jews died mostly from illness, typhus in particular.

After watching the video I realized that I had believed the official story of the Jewish Holocaust despite having absolutely no evidence that it actually happened the way I was told it happened. The only support I had for this official story were the pronouncements of authorities. This is the exact sort of behavior I have been long criticizing in others. I also realized that I was not interested in expending much effort investigating these claims to either support or disprove them. I am not willing to change my belief on the matter and be agnostic like a true skeptic is supposed to be. To my credit, although I refuse to reject my belief in the Jewish Holocaust, I will stop referring derogatively to those that profess their skepticism of it.

This is not the first time I’ve had such a revelation either. In the mid 90′s I considered myself a real skeptic because I didn’t believe false the notion of “cold fusion”, now known as LENR (Low Energy Nuclear Reactions). I had rightly noticed that the belief that “cold fusion” was false was not supported by sound evidence or sound reasoning. Then in the mid 2000′s I was exposed to evidence against the official story of 9/11, 2001. Up until then I believed I was a true skeptic despite believing in the official 9/11 story without question. Again, with 9/11 there is no evidence whatsoever to support key parts of the official 9/11 story. There are only pronouncements from authorities meant to be taken on faith.

Now I understand that there are probably some people that refuse to acknowledge the deficiencies in the official 9/11 story because it is simply to painful to question. For some it might be painful to question because they have publicly stated their beliefs in grandiose arrogant fashion and are now afraid to appear foolish. Others lack the critical reasoning skills to understand a truly skeptical outlook. The remainder pretend to support the pseudo-scientific official story to protect or further their careers or reputations.

The lesson for me is simply to not believe that I am a real skeptic. Such a belief encourages an arrogance or sense of correctness that is most probably false. Do you like arrogant people? Do arrogant people convince you that your arguments are valid? Most people would say no. It would seem that what our world needs is a tolerance and compassion for alternative ideas as opposed to a rigid dogmatic stance.

For the most part I think skepticism is like many things and follows a bell curve. On the extreme left are those that believe everything is true or believe everything is false. A little to the right are mainstream “skeptics”, the Michael Shermers and James Randis that believe anything new, unusual or disturbing is probably false. To the extreme right are those perhaps mythical few that truly apply critical thinking to every idea and let the chips fall where they may. Most of us though are in the middle. Generally we are wary of anything really outlandish unless powerful authority figures tells us it is true or false. Then we’ll tend to believe it without question and mock those that do question it. The reality is that true skepticism is probably an unreachable ideal. It is an ideal we should strive to reach but we also must have the humility to accept that we probably never will.

 

Michael Fullerton

Michael Fullerton

BSc Psychology/Computer Science, University of Calgary, 1995. Member of Scientists for 9/11 Truth and Scholars for 9/11 Truth & Justice.

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December 2013

Skeptopathy_Dec

Articles

The Myth Of Emergence: Magic Masquerading as Science

Shows how the concept of emergence is commonly misrepresented as a magical creation of something from nothing.

The No Conspiracy Theory Conspiracy

Explains how the term “conspiracy theory” has been perverted to suppress corporate and governmental dissent.

False Fallacy Fallacy: The Fallacious Straw Man

Discusses a new fallacy that involves misrepresenting logically valid arguments as fallacious.

Reviews

Novella’s Skepticism Fail

Critique of Steven Novella’s review “Chopra Skepticism Fail Part 2″ a criticism of Deepak Chopra’s second article on “The Rise and Fall of Militant Skepticism”.

Michael Fullerton

Michael Fullerton

BSc Psychology/Computer Science, University of Calgary, 1995. Member of Scientists for 9/11 Truth and Scholars for 9/11 Truth & Justice.

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The Myth Of Emergence: Magic Masquerading as Science

Möbius_strip-med

Möbius strip demonstrating emergence

As strange as this may sound, many if not most scientists seem to believe in one form of magic. This form of magic is also believed by most mainstream “skeptics” and all atheists. This magical thinking is probably traceable to the magical thinking introduced to all of us in the form of certain religious teachings. The magical thinking involves a very primitive understanding of the concept of emergence.

The term emergence refers to properties or traits of a system that are not traits of the things the system is made of. For example, a block of iron has the property of hardness whereas the iron atoms do not have a hardness property. When enough iron atoms come together and are heated then cooled they form a mass with a hardness property. Under these conditions the new property of hardness has magically arisen out of nowhere. The overriding problem is that most people do not perceive this effect for what it is, an illusion. The hardness property does not exist at the level of the atom. There you see only the property of atoms sticking closely together. Because of our perceptual limitation that we can’t see individual atoms, we instead experience an illusion. This is what emergence is, an illusion. It refers to something but not what at first appears.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”[1]
-Arthur C. Clarke

Whenever we understand a system well enough, we see that its emergent properties are illusory. There is no colour, only photons of particular wavelengths that our brains interpret as colour. There is no sound only a certain range of vibrations that our brain interprets as sound. There is no smell only molecules that exude off of things which are collected by receptors in our nose to be interpreted by our brain as odor.

Yet when many people don’t understand systems enough, any emergent properties tend to be seen as having truly arisen out of nowhere. The most obvious examples are mental states. A human being has mental states like awareness, thought and feeling. Humans however are complex collections of atoms and other particles. Human mental states then must be explainable in terms of atomic properties. Or in other words, human mental states must be based on atomic properties. But how can a fundamental unique property like thought be based on something with no mental capacities?

To simplify things I would argue that thought, awareness and consciousness are one and the same thing. Thought is the awareness of ideas and the processing of information. Awareness is recognizing that something is there. In other words, awareness is processing information. Consciousness is being aware of your self as a system. In other words, consciousness is awareness of ideas or concepts and processing information. So really, all three terms refer to thought.

A human being is made only of particles like atoms and photons. These particles in turn are ultimately composed of packets or simple systems of energy. The interactions of these packets of energy in a sufficiently complex system result in human-level thought. If the mind is the brain, the mind is energy. Energy is thought. Energy must have some kind of simple thought. When simple energy systems interact together in complex ways, complex thought emerges. There is no way around this obvious fact except though the manic application of sophistry. This is just what the magical thinker does. Instead of thinking of where the emergent property comes from he simply assumes the property magically arises from nothing.

Where does this tendency towards magical thinking come from? One obvious source is religion. All religions involve a creation story that involves a divine being, the creator, creating the world out of nothing. This magical something from nothing idea also permeates the lay understanding of physics. It is disturbing how many people believe that the Big Bang involved the entire Universe arising out of nothing. Writers like Lawrence M. Krauss with his deceptively titled book “A Universe from Nothing” do little to help dispel this delusion.

By exorcising magical thinking from science we can enter an new era of rationality. By finally recognizing the undeniable conclusion that the building blocks of matter have simple mental states, we prove pantheism. When pantheism is recognized as an undeniable reality, atheism in turn is proven false. Pantheism then becomes a core spiritual outlook entirely compatible with science. Pantheism also can act as a core to all religions with their extra purely faith-based notions bolted on. Instead of the current divisional state of theism vs atheism we have a common uniting ground between science and religion. Similarly, all religions have a common uniting core instead of the overwhelming destructive divisions that have caused such untold misery though the ages. When even scientists and mainstream skeptics finally realize magical thinking is wrong, this in turn could influence religious people to draw close to the world of science. By finally recognizing emergence for what it really is, an illusion, we can achieve a new world order based on respect and cooperation instead of the current one of division and derision.

Notes

1. “Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination” in the collection Profiles of the Future: An Enquiry into the Limits of the Possible (1962, rev. 1973), pp. 14, 21, 36.

Michael Fullerton

Michael Fullerton

BSc Psychology/Computer Science, University of Calgary, 1995. Member of Scientists for 9/11 Truth and Scholars for 9/11 Truth & Justice.

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The No Conspiracy Theory Conspiracy

320px-World_conspiracies_pyramid

World conspiracies pyramid

If you’ve ever wondered if there is something fundamentally wrong with mainstream skepticism, the mainstream media and society in general you only have to look at how the term “conspiracy theory” is used. This phrase is composed of two terms which by themselves are neutral. The term “theory” in this context simply means a possible explanation. A conspiracy occurs whenever two or more people work together to achieve a nefarious goal. Conspiracies then are ubiquitous in human society. A large portion of our legal system is devoted to conspiracy. Much human history likewise involves grand conspiracies. The Nazi Holocaust for example, is the idea that the Nazis secretly killed millions of Jewish people by gassing them en masse. By putting the two word definitions together to make the phrase “conspiracy theory”, you simply have an explanation for an event that involved people working together to reach a nefarious end. In fact this is precisely the meaning that the phrase “conspiracy theory” referred to before 1963.[1] After 1963, the year of the JFK assassination, the term “conspiracy theory” came to denote a paranoid outlandish impossible belief that people in positions of great power conspired to do something malevolent.

All mainstream “skeptics” use the term “conspiracy theory” to reject outright any claims involving powerful people working together to do bad things. It is also used as a term of ridicule to denigrate a person instead of dealing with their arguments. In effect the term then is what is referred to as a thought terminating cliché. Such a device is used to quell cognitive dissonance or justify fallacious reasoning. Indeed, look at what these “skeptics” are doing. They aren’t dealing with the arguments justifying a conspiracy. They are rejecting outright the argument simply because it involves a conspiracy. In order to reject outright any explanation involving a conspiracy, no conspiracies must ever have occurred. In fact though, history is rife with conspiracies. Countless times psychopathic rulers have waged war on other nations for purely selfish reasons. They conspired to convince their subjects to put their lives on the line in order to benefit their leader. Since grand conspiracies do in fact happen, those who automatically reject any new potential conspiracies are clearly suffering from a serious delusion. They are rejecting evidence-based reality in order to maintain a comforting faith-based belief system.

Every current disparaging use of the term “conspiracy theory” is fallacious. Pronouncing that an argument is false simply because it involves a conspiracy is a bare assertion. Arguments should be evidence-based not faith-based. Dismissively calling a person a “conspiracy theorist” instead of dealing with their argument is an ad hominem. The argument should be attacked not the person making it. Claiming an argument involving a conspiracy is false because it hasn’t been proven true is an appeal to ignorance. Because of this sophist use of the term “conspiracy theory”, every mainstream “skeptic” that uses the term disparagingly is misrepresenting himself as a critical thinker. In other words, they are all frauds.

How did this no conspiracy delusion originate? Before the JFK assassination in 1963, the term “conspiracy theory” was neutral. It simply meant what it should mean: a proposed explanation involving a conspiracy. At this time the term wasn’t denoting a paranoid outlandish delusion that couldn’t possibly be true. Conspiracies are after all very commonplace. The entire history of human civilization is a history of conspiracies. After the Warren Commission report was released amid an outcry of skeptics, the CIA with the help of powerful media interests, instituted a propaganda campaign to turn the term “conspiracy theory” into one of derision.[2] A crucial piece of evidence for this comes from CIA Document 1035-960: “Concerning Criticism of the Warren Report”. This document outlines a strategy of using propaganda techniques to neutralize critics of the Warren Report.[3] In effect, the report documents how to weaponize the term “conspiracy theory”. It details how to “employ propaganda assets” to discredit critics.

The fact that so many of us fell for this and continue to fall for this ongoing propaganda campaign exposes the reality that we are animals. We are possibly the most complex animal on Earth but we are animals. We can be conditioned to believe almost anything just like Pavlov’s salivating dogs were. Conditioning is learning. But learning is not always a positive thing. We can be taught the truth. We can also be taught the most vicious lies.

Notes

1. “20th Century Words”, John Ayto, Oxford University Press (December 2, 1999)

2. “Conspiracy Theory in America”, Lance deHaven-Smith, University of Texas Press (April 15, 2013)

3. http://www.jfklancer.com/CIA.html

Michael Fullerton

Michael Fullerton

BSc Psychology/Computer Science, University of Calgary, 1995. Member of Scientists for 9/11 Truth and Scholars for 9/11 Truth & Justice.

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Review: “Chopra Skepticism Fail Part 2″

Deepak_Chopra

Deepak Chopra

On November 12 Steven Novella published a review of Deepak Chopra’s follow up article about what Chopra calls “The Rise and Fall of Militant Skepticism”.[1] Novella characterized Chopra as “intellectually superficial and careless, more interested in propping up his particular brand of mysticism than genuinely engaging with his critics”. What would it take for a skeptic to be intellectually superficial and careless? I think committing the same kind of sophomoric logical fallacies he accuses of his opponent. So how does Novella fare?

Case in point. Novella accuses Chopra of building straw men while doing the precise thing himself. Chopra’s straw man supposedly involves the conflation of atheism and skepticism. But let’s look at what Chopra actually writes:

“As an agenda, however, the story of skepticism is quite different. The way that strident atheism has clothed itself in science seems convincing to people who are skeptical about God in the first place. But there’s no scientific basis for atheism, since God isn’t subject to experimentation. As the dust has settled, the agenda of militant skepticism has come to light – it’s basically another symptom of the blogosphere’s culture of personal attack, unfounded allegation, and a reckless disregard for the truth.”[2]

Clearly Chopra is conflating nothing. He is simply talking about skepticism and atheism. Although he is arguing that atheism is a form of militant skepticism, he is not claiming they are the same thing. Both concepts do go hand in hand since every mainstream skeptic is also an unabashed atheist. If someone said that a deer was an animal, using Novella’s odd logic, they would be saying that deer is a synonym for animal. So, due to his confirmation bias, Novella has misinterpreted Chopra and attacked this misinterpretation. This is the very definition of a straw man. Novella commits the very fallacy he falsely claims his opponent has.

Chopra continues:

“None of this is news. The fate of militant skepticism, whatever it may be, will drift apart from the serious business of doing science. After all, no scientific discovery was ever made by negative thinking. There has to be an open-minded curiosity and a willingness to break new ground, while the militant skeptics represent the exact opposite: they are dedicated to the suppression of curiosity and protecting rigid boundaries of “real” science.”

Novella here again misinterprets what Chopra is saying by conflating “militant skepticism” with scientific skepticism. In effect, Novella substitutes one specific concept for another to build a straw man. Militant skepticism is a synonym of pathological skepticism. By that term Chopra clearly is referring to a tendency of such skeptics to reject certain ideas rather than taking an agnostic position as an actual science-based skeptic would do. Instead of dealing with Chopra’s actual criticisms of militant skepticism, Novella inanely lectures on what good skepticism is and which few mainstream skeptics, including Novella himself, actually consistently practice.

Novella then claims Chopra is expounding “quantum nonsense”. But in the contested text, what Chopra is referring to are the notions of the measurement problem in quantum physics, entanglement and the uncertainty principle. These are actual serious concepts in quantum mechanics, not “nonsense”. Contrary to Novella’s blustering unsupported pronouncements (bare assertion fallacies), Chopra makes no mistakes when talking about these principles. A science-based critical thinker should be supporting his statements with sound arguments not thoroughly unsupported pronouncements.

Chopra in pillar 4 states that it is assumed that the brain produces consciousness but that this has not been proven true. Despite Novella’s odd claim to the contrary, this is correct. In science, the term “prove” means to show unequivocally that something is true. It definitely has not been proven that the brain produces consciousness. Bizarrely, Novella seems to believe that because a hypothesis has evidence to support it, it is proven to be true. This ridiculous belief is a complete mischaracterization of one of the most fundamental principles of science. It shows that, if anyone, it is he who really has a pseudo-science outlook.

Novella’s bizarre evidence that the brain produces or causes the mind is that whenever the brain is altered physically the mind is also altered. But this only shows that the brain influences the mind not that the brain produces the mind. Chopra is criticizing the absurd belief that the mind magically arises from the brain out of nowhere not that brain function shapes the current state of awareness. As Chopra correctly states, the brain is made only of atoms and other particles. If these particles do not possess simple mental states then mental states magically arise out of nowhere when atoms interact in a particular manner. If instead, as Chopra alludes, these particles have primitive mental states; this suggests the Universe could have some kind of mental state. Novella proclaims that this notion has “far deeper and even fatal problems” but does not go into what they are. Perhaps this is because these problems are only imaginary and thus completely unsupportable by fact and rational argument.

Novella supports his belief that brain function is the mind by stating that every neuroscientist he’s talked to believes this notion. That is, he commits both the appeal to the masses and appeal to authority fallacies. My question to these neuroscientists is this: if the brain is just atoms and other particles wouldn’t this make these particles’ functions as the mind? Further, since these particles are only energy, wouldn’t this make energy functions as the mind? And finally, since the Universe is made only of energy too could not the Universe then also have some form of mind?

Novella falsely claims Chopra has built straw men while building them himself. Novella falsely accuses Chopra of conflating terms while doing this himself. Novella criticizes Chopra for not engaging his critics. Yet Novella and his merry band of sycophants do exactly the same. As just one example, no mainstream “skeptic” has ever been able to engage me regarding my simple argument as to how all mainstream skeptics are frauds when it comes to the issue of their unwavering belief in the official 9/11 myth.[3] Is the rampant hypocrisy we see the result of willful blindness or just run of the mill self-delusion? You’ll have to decide that for yourself.

Notes

1. http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/chopra-skepticism-fail-part-2/
2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepak-chopra/the-rise-and-fall-of-mili_1_b_4255566.html
3. http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2012/09/10/911-pseudo-science-a-us-foreign-policy-built-on-fraud/

Michael Fullerton

Michael Fullerton

BSc Psychology/Computer Science, University of Calgary, 1995. Member of Scientists for 9/11 Truth and Scholars for 9/11 Truth & Justice.

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